Paul Malikkal

Review

The Sunlit Night (2019)

Paul Malikkal

“Art is about making choices,” reproaches Jenny Slate’s mentor in the film. That also diagnoses the source of the film’s messiness quite accurately. This film is standard twenty-something coming of age material. And the early dialogue is reminiscent of the bickering, New York Intellectuals of Noah Baumbach’s oeuvre. And yet the impressionistic visual style that, at times, suggests a debt to Malick becomes more pretentious than ponderous when paired with such conventional material. Wrendt also makes some half-hearted attempts at infusing some quirk into the film (provided, in large part, by Galifianakis) which plays like off-brand Taika Waititi, and distracts even further from the ostensible focus of the film: its protagonist coming of age. Hardly the vehicle for Slate that her producing credit may suggest, she’s given few chances to breathe life into her character and takes on the reactionary role of a sitcom protagonist, rather than that of the complex young woman and artist the film seems to think it’s about.

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