SXSW 2022 Review: Pretty Problems

Year: 2022

Runtime: 103 minutes

Director: Kestrin Pantera

Writers: Britt Rentschler, Michael Tennant, (based on a story by) Charlotte Ubben

Cast: Britt Rentschler, Michael Tennant, J.J. Nolan, Graham Outerbridge, Clayton Froning, Katerina Hughes, Alex Klein, Charlotte Ubben

By Joan Amenn

I live in a place where you can’t toss your cellphone without hitting a tech millionaire so perhaps, “Pretty Problems” (2022) resonated more with me than it might with others. This tale of a listless, downtrodden couple suddenly transported to a seemingly magical land of wealth is poignant and darkly funny in how it skewers the tensions between the haves and have nots in our society.

Lindsay (Britt Rentschler, recently seen in “Uncle Frank” (2021) and Jack (Michael Tennant) are most definitely not living their best lives. She has a dead-end job working in an upscale boutique and he just seems to be completely at a loss with what to do with himself. Enter Cat (J.J. Nolan), who strolls into the shop and leaves Lindsay’s head spinning with her chatty, rather aggressively friendly invite to her exclusive Sonoma Valley mansion for the weekend. She also buys out the store leaving not doubt that she is indeed as rich as she appears to be.

She also guesses at Lindsay’s dream to be a fashion designer and hints at being willing to financially back her. This is so well played by Nolan as a master manipulator and Rentschler as a woman who desperately needs someone in her corner. Of course, Lindsay convinces Jack to take Cat up on her invitation and the viewer is swept away into the brilliantly sunlit countryside with our two somewhat naïve protagonists.

No spoilers for what they find there but there is an “absolutely fabulous” 1920’s themed party that is appropriate since Cat and her equally self-absorbed husband Matt (Graham Outerbridge) are as isolated as Jay Gatsby in their own little bubble world. There are some great moments of satiric self-owns by the privileged while the lesser financially endowed guests grow increasingly alarmed. Director Kestrin Pantera knows the importance of timing in comedy and has a great sense of visual story telling. While the script for “Pretty Problems” could have been punchier, Nolan and Rentschler nail their roles and the scenes with them together are the best in the film. Outerbridge and Tennant do a great job in their supporting roles but one wishes they were fleshed out a bit more, especially with poor hapless Jack.

If you need a laugh these days, (and who doesn’t?) be sure to catch “Pretty Problems” when it lands with a streaming service or a local cinema near you. It’s a fun romp and sharp satire that will have you snickering and snorting over your champagne and oysters, or your beer and frozen pizza. Whichever.

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