Horse Girl (2020): A Brief Review

Now that awards season is behind us and Parasite officially a Best Picture winner, I can get back to doing what I started this blog to do: reviewing movies.

My first official review of a 2020 release is for Jeff Baena’s Horse Girl, which premiered at Sundance before finding its home on Netflix. I didn’t get to watch it immediately due to the Oscars weekend and generally being busy with life, but last night I finally sat down to give it a go. I’m going to be very open and admit the only this interested me was because of Alison Brie. I’ve loved her since Mad Men and Community and I think she’s a great actress. I was pleasantly surprised that she was not the only good thing about the film.

Featuring significantly less horse content that I was anticipating, Horse Girl tells the story of Sarah (Alison Brie), a shy craft-store worker who begins experience bizarre events that she’s convinced are linked to the series of dreams she’s been having. Her life is upturned by her realisation that things might not be as they seem.

It isn’t the premise I was expecting given the title and poster, but there’s a fair amount of intrigue in the set-up as we’re following Sarah’s day-to-day life, anchored to the character by Brie’s compelling performance. We don’t quite understand what we’re seeing, but Brie sells it all perfectly. Her life appears to be simple. She goes to work, comes home and watches her favourite TV Show, Purgatory, not unlike our own Supernatural, and goes to bed to prepare for the next day of doing the same things. From the mundanity of her life stems the opportunity for mind-bending chaos.

Without delving into spoiler territory, because some of the things that develop in this movie are worth seeing for yourself, it’s fair to say that Horse Girl doesn’t quite live up to its exciting potential, nor does it fall flat. There are a lot of places this movie could have gone (some that are actually set up but never capitalised on) that it chooses not to and, while some are smartly avoided, there are several things that would have given a little more depth into the world-building and characterisation as well as making for some terrific scenes.

But like I’ve said, Alison Brie is the movie’s main focus and she is excellent. Definitely the best performance I’ve seen from her, she traverses the character’s fragility and uncertainty with aplomb and she’s a large part of the audience’s investment in the movie and the story. Brie also wrote and produced this and there’s an element of her performance that feels strikingly personal in regards to the presentation of mental health and family dynamic. There’s a scene with her and Jay Duplass towards the end of the movie that is really poignant and emotionally stirring and I can’t wait to see if Brie does more projects like this. She’s an extremely competent comic actress but I love seeing her dramatic side come out and she handles it wonderfully.

When I said brief I actually meant brief this time, that’s mostly what I have to say about Horse Girl. It’s one of those movies that’s worth just following along for yourself and seeing how it makes you feel. I will end on the fact that I think it’s the least likely movie to draw from Under The Skin as an influence, but it was welcome nonetheless, even if it didn’t quite make the most of its chances to draw real parallels.

Check out Horse Girl on Netflix for Alison Brie alone, even if the rest of the movie doesn’t grab you, she likely will.

As always, would love to discuss the movie with anyone who wants to, either in the comments or the usual places: Letterboxd or Twitter.

Until next time!

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