The Great Pretender: Funny, self-aware, and brutally lonely
Sunday came and with it the end of 2018’s New Hampshire Film Festival. Sunlight streamed into the city along with a warm gentle breeze and provided the packed streets with a serene final day of features, shorts, and documentaries. But just because it was the last day didn’t mean that there weren’t plenty of strong presentations left in store. And so it was that the Music Hall found itself with another excited group ready for a screening of The Great Pretender.
Told out of order, from differing perspectives, The Great Pretender is an exploration of love, desire, and connection presented in the sardonic and humorous nihilistic tones of classic French cinema. New York is its playground, coated in an ethereal dreamlike haze. Soft colors are paired with a series of steady shots refracted through mirrors and curtains. There the audience witnesses the intertwining lives and stories of four lead characters in the weeks leading up to and including the opening night of a play. One is the writer and director of the play, one is the ex-boyfriend the play is based on, one the woman playing the writer, and one is playing the ex-boyfriend.
“I’m a good guy. When it counts” becomes the unofficial mantra of the film. Repeated in an effort to separate the characters from all their own failures, which they can see but can’t muster up the will or courage to change. Defined by their charming dishonesty towards each other and themselves, all four characters begin the movies consumed in their own art and narcissistic, self-destructive tendencies. They drink, smoke, and sleep with each other as they present an intelligent front seemingly content to comment on their shortcomings as they trade disingenuous pithy lines.
Slowly, over the course of the film layers of reality become twisted and blurred. The four characters reveal pieces of themselves to the audiences while hiding those same pieces from the people they inhabit the cinematic world with. But despite their best efforts to produce the carefully practiced caricatures of the people they wish to be, they can’t help but devolve into the inartistic and truly sad, lonely messes they are. A bunch of would be heroes incapable of breaking character and communicating honestly with each other. Funny, self-aware, and brutally lonely at times The Great Pretender was a fantastic indie rom-com addition to this years brilliant collection of films.
This film was written, directed and produced by Nathan Silver; also produced and written by Jack Dunphy; co-produced by Danelle Eliav, Jere B. Ford and Matt Grady; and stars Esther Garrel, Maëlle Poesy-Guichard, Keith Poulson and Linas Phillips.
By Tom Berry