Good Posture review: a cameo-studded bookish comedy set in Brooklyn

Debut director Dolly Wells makes a play to be the new indie-com darling with this witty literary two-hander starring Emily Mortimer as a reclusive writer and Grace Van Patten as her unlikely lodger.

Good Posture (2019)

A bored young woman moves in with a married couple in this engaging debut from writer and actor Dolly Wells. It was filmed in six weeks on location in Brooklyn with Wells’s friends – some are more famous than others, but they all bring plenty to this gently humorous observational drama.

Grace Van Patten takes centre stage as the sulky Lilian, who seems every inch the emotionally neglected but materially spoiled daughter of a famous father, which it transpires she is. Less predictable is the direction the story takes. After a stoned night partying with Don, Lilian doesn’t become the teen temptress or the other woman in a love triangle: instead, she’s left living with Don’s wife Julia, a celebrated novelist who stays in her room and communicates largely by note (a neat gender flip of the reclusive male-writer trope).

And so this becomes a literary two-hander that demands far less time of its bankable star Emily Mortimer (Wells’s co-star and co-writer in the series Dol & Em), whose Julia appears rarely and mostly in voiceover. When Mortimer is on screen, she’s magnificent and helps to establish a mood as efficiently as Wells’s sharp, economical script.

The scene in which Lilian first meets Julia is fantastically awkward. “Do you have a cold?” asks Julia when Lilian proffers her hand, swiftly characterising her as a germaphobe who cares little for politeness and who’s no fan of house guests, either. It’s only on paper, safely away from physical contact, that Julia softens and shows fondness for the “entitled oaf” living under her roof – and it’s there that Lilian can reveal her own intelligence, stripped of the beauty she implicitly relies on to cruise through life without stretching herself too hard.

More pronounced comedy comes from an enjoyable array of supporting characters, chief among them Sol, a camp cameraman who’s thrilled to be helping Lilian make a documentary about Julia (this despite the fact that Julia doesn’t even know about the project and that he’s read none of her books). Cameos from the documentary’s famous contributors playing themselves err close to self-indulgence, and the first one runs confusingly early in the film, before the idea of the doc has been introduced. But they’re well enough scripted, and perhaps improvised, to deliver both narratively and humorously, with Zadie Smith on especially naturalistic and funny form.

To make things even more New York-flavoured, there are also dogs, dog walkers, clumsy dates and coffees galore. It’s unmistakably Brooklyn, but there’s still something universal about this story of abandonment, connection and inspiration; an understated indie that suggests Wells could easily be the next Gerwig or Baumbach.


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