Zoe Kazan and Jake Johnson (Dada Films)

Zoe Kazan and Jake Johnson in The Pretty One (Dada Films)

Written & by Directed by Jenée LaMarque
Produced by Robin Schorr & Steven J. Berger
Released by Dada Films
USA. 90 min. Rated R
With Zoe Kazan, Jake Johnson, Ron Livingston & Danny Pudi

The Pretty One is a film that fits its name. It is simple, enjoyable, and cute, yet possesses the same depth as the title suggests, which is a bit on the shallow side. The story centers on Laurel, “the awkward one” to her twin sister Audrey, who embodies the titular role. (Both characters are played by Zoe Kazan.) While Laurel remains in a dust bowl town with her widowed father, helping him forge famous paintings, Audrey is a city dwelling real estate agent who appears to have it all. She lives in an apartment taken straight from the “hip 20-something” section of an Ikea catalog and has the Anthropology wardrobe to match. Meanwhile, Laurel is sleeping with the underage boy next door and donning her dead mother’s dresses.

On a visit home for their birthday, Audrey dies in a car crash after taking Laurel to get a makeover. You guessed it: Laurel has been made to look even more like Audrey, and the entire town thinks it’s Laurel who has kicked the bucket. After attending her own funeral, Laurel decides to maintain the false identity as Audrey and flee for the city, assuming her deceased twin’s job, apartment, and friends to ultimately live the life she always dreamed of.

This film is predictable from moment one. The instant Laurel shows up as “Audrey” in her city apartment, she meets her charming and rakish neighbor Basel (Jake Johnson), who is clearly the film’s love interest. Basel’s character is a bit unconvincing—he can somehow pay rent with no sign of employment other than selling books on eBay, but Johnson is relentlessly charismatic in the role. I hate to say he carried the film, as there was nothing heavy about it, and I expect to see him in more of these roles considering his ease and unflinching charm.

Kazan’s performance left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, she certainly extracted pity from the audience with her rendition of Laurel. On the other hand, the acting seemed forced and on a level that was cringe-worthy in the beginning.

The Pretty One does have perks: it’s funny and well shot, and the set design spot-on. This being the first feature film by director Jenée LaMarque, I’d say she has plenty of time to grow into more complex character development and story lines. For now, the film rests as a decent date movie, but not much more than that.