Golden Exits is one of those movies in which characters who wallow in the ennui of their dull lives elucidate sociological and philosophical ideas that, one might think, would be beyond their abilities to comprehend. They know themselves so well, conveying to each other the deepest fears and insecurities of their soul (as well as their desires) to people who might not be prepared for such openness, that it is possibly more frustrating to us than to them that they will not act on behalf of those fears, insecurities, and desires. That is not, unfortunately, a testament to authenticity on the part of director Alex Ross Perry's screenplay but an acknowledgment of its limitations.
There is no movement within these characters that constitutes what might be called "depth" on any level, even much of that which rests on the surface of these characters' minds. They are intellectual beings limiting their own options, often out of callow or self-centered tendencies. It makes a twisted kind of sense, then, that the two most interesting characters exist on the sidelines of Perry's movie. They are tied together by the central tool of the plot, the arrival of a young woman from overseas, but Aly (Chloe Sevigny) and Jess (Analeigh Tipton), both of whose husbands have become smitten by that young woman, are not the central focuses of the screenplay. Perhaps they should be.
There is enough drama, after all, surrounding Aly's marriage to Nick (Adam Horowitz), which comes at the price of nameless resentment from him and Aly's generally-miserable sister Gwen (Mary-Louise Parker), and Jess's to Buddy (Jason Schwartzman), who co-manages a recording company with Jess but hardly shows up to do the legwork of signing artists to record. It feels like rubbing salt in various wounds that Naomi (Emily Browning), a young and attractive woman, arrives from Australia on a work visa to assist Nick in his archival work. Hiring a young, female assistant isn't a new thing for Nick, let's say, and drunkenly visiting her in the middle of the night on his birthday suggests a pathetic loneliness left unfulfilled by any decision he might make.
Perry's decision to make Naomi, of all the characters in his ensemble, the center of the movie is a fatal one. She is a dull and passive presence, here to act as a foil for affection from Nick and toward Buddy, whom she knew as a child and now lusts after, if he would only allow some excitement in his life. This is not where the substance (whatever that may be) of Perry's story rests, and as the filmmaker also finds time to include a subplot involving Jess's sister (played by Lily Rabe), who assists Gwen and foresees a life of misery in her company, that itself doesn't really lead anywhere, it's difficult to detect a point. Golden Exits quite literally ends on a question that should never be asked: Is that all there is?
Emily Browning (Naomi), Adam Horovitz (Nick), Mary-Louise Parker (Gwen), Jason Schwartzman (Buddy), Chloe Sevigny (Aly), Analeigh Tipton (Jess), Lily Rabe (Sam), Craig Butta (Greg).
Directed and written by Alex Ross Perry.
Rated R (language, sexual references).
Released in select cities on February 9, 2018.