Discomfort in an Alex Ross Perry film differs from your usual onscreen suffering in that it feels organically connected to characters' insecurity. Jealousy and resentment hide behind even the simplest of compliments. A conversation may begin in peace but will almost always end in passive-aggressive assault.
Up to this point, Perry's mostly dabbled in different variations on the rivalry comedy. The Color Wheel deals with talky siblings at odds while Listen Up Phillip takes pretentious academics to task for their incessant one-upmanship.
Queen of Earth also features two characters with an angry history, but it explores their thorny relationship through the distorted lens of the psycho-thriller genre. Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) experiences a breakup that shatters her sense of identity in the opening scene. Longtime friend Virginia (Katherine Waterston) suggests the two use her family lake house for refuge. They have spent many a summer there, but this one will be different.
Despite being surrounded by serenity, Catherine and Virginia declare a war of attrition. Pent up anger that has laid dormant for years begins bubbling to the surface. The eerie score and hazy cinematography harken back to the unsettling horror cinema of Nicolas Roeg.
As Catherine's breakdown grows more nightmarish, Perry provides us a window into Virginia's perspective, who had experienced a similar crisis the summer before. Both experiences make up a mosaic of co-dependency that has failed to provide either character the comfort they need to heal.
Queen of Earth, which opens Friday, Sept. 25, at the Digital Gym Cinema, peels back the flimsy skin of a friendship gone rotten years before. Thanks to two haunting lead performances, Perry transcends his patented style of discomfort with a vision of modern fragmentation so casual it feels at one with nature. Looking for any hope? You'll find it at the bottom of the lake.
Coming Home: After being separated from his wife during China's Cultural Revolution, a young man returns home to find that his spouse no longer recognizes him.
Guidance: A former TV child star helps a teenage outcast become a high school guidance counselor by fudging his resume. Screens through Thursday, Oct. 1, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Hotel Transylvania 2: Dracula and his ghoulish friends try to bring out the monster in his grandson, who is half-vampire and half-human. Hilarity ensues.
Queen of Earth: Elisabeth Moss plays a distraught young woman trying to recover from a brutal breakup while on vacation at her friend's (Katherine Waterston) lake house. Screens through Thursday, Oct. 1, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Sicario: An FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is recruited to join a secret government taskforce seeking to disrupt the Mexican drug trade in the United States.
Sleeping With Other People: Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie play serial cheaters who try to form a platonic relationship with each other in order to help them reform their ways.
Stonewall: A young man experiences a political awakening during the days and weeks leading up to the Stonewall Riots.
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution: This is the first documentary to explore the cultural, social and political impact of The Black Panther Party on American life. Screens through Thursday, Oct. 1, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Intern: Robert De Niro plays a restless retiree who decides to get back into the business game by becoming an intern for an online fashion site.
The New Girlfriend: François Ozon's new relationship drama follows a young woman who makes a surprising discovery about the husband of her late best friend.
The Second Mother: The estranged daughter of a live-in housekeeper causes havoc while revealing unspoken class barriers and stereotypes.
Meet the Patels: After keeping his dating life a secret for years, Ravi Patel decides to finally let his conservative parents set him up, the old fashioned way. This documentary is both a laugh-out loud romantic comedy and family coming-of-age story. Opens Friday, Sept. 25, at the AMC Fashion Valley Cinemas.
Viridiana: A young nun on the verge of taking her final vows pays a visit to her widowed uncle in Luis Bunuel's masterpiece. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, at the Mission Valley Pulbic Library.