Debuting writer-director Jenée LaMarque describes her indie film as a fairy-tale, and taken in that light, it’s worth a look. LaMarque’s best decision was casting the gifted Zoe Kazan in the leading role(s), as a gawky twin named Laurel who has always lived in the shadow of her popular sister Audrey. Through a deus ex machina plot twist and subsequent misunderstanding, Laurel is mistaken for her sibling and decides to see what it’s like living in her skin.
The premise may be far-fetched, but it’s carried out with sincerity. If you’re willing to go along—and Kazan makes it possible to do so—the results are amusing, ironic, and thoughtful. John Carroll Lynch is touching and believable as the girls’ emotionally stilted father, and Jake Johnson couldn’t be more appealing as a tenant in Audrey’s house who never got to first base with her—but now finds the “new” Audrey strangely attracted to him.
Modest in its ambitions, The Pretty One is accomplished in its execution, right down to eye-defying moments with both twins on camera, done without CGI. (Kudos to cinematographer Polly Morgan.) At a time when so many Hollywood studio releases make me curse the time I’ve wasted on them, it’s refreshing to encounter a small-scale movie that offers a gleam of satisfaction.