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Worst Person in the World (The Criterion Collection), The
One could see The Worst Person in the World be something that American comedienne Jenny Slate headline (and for a minute, that's what I thought it was!), because it's a film that seems to reach broadly in some of the things in it that it's lead does. And as a continuing part of Criterion's pivot to contemporary films, having a chance to see this Norwegian gem proved to be an interesting proposition.
Joachim Trier co-wrote and directed the film, the final part of his "Oslo Trilogy" which included Reprise and Oslo, August 31. The worst person in this world is Julie (Renate Reinsve), a young Oslo woman whose careers and relationships are shown through the years. Whether it's the writer Axsel (Anders Danielsen Lie, 22 July) or the modest Eivind (Herbert Nordrum), the common thread between Julie's relationships are her aversions to settling down, or her boyfriend's wanting children, and we see her drift in and out of these moments.
Reinsve, who had been considering quitting acting before she got the role of Julie (it was written for her by Trier and Vogt), delivers a role that is elevating. A layman will notice that she kind of looks like Dakota Johnson, and Julie is the type of person that seems to be resilient about not wanting to have kids, and to do her own thing even as the men in her life occasionally crumble in front of her. It's a role that has a quiet poise that evolves into melancholy as she grows older and those she knows the most do the same.
The film is meant to be a romantic comedy, and there is some use of voiceover in it which is apparently designed to differentiate itself from other films of the genre. Though I think this trope is double edged to a degree; if you've ever seen a few minutes of Arrested Development, or similar entertainment where the narrator sort of breaks the fourth wall at times to the viewer. It's framed as something new which is true for the genre, but is not as revelatory as you would expect.
The positive of this is as the film moves from second act to third act it almost evolves into a sympathetic voice for the viewer in Julie's adventures, and disappears as the film gets into a little more darker territory. The romantic comedy portion of Worst is not bad, but the more dramatic portion of it is when things get really good.
Between Trier's unique visuals, the different means used for the film and Reinsve's performance and those of her co-stars, it makes for a fascinating experience particularly as Julie moves from her 20s to 30s. By no means is The Worst Person in the World reinventing the wheel, but the ride is worth taking the time for.The Blu-ray:
Criterion created a 2K transfer for The Worst Person in the World and things generally look good. Black levels are deep and skin tones are natural. The color reproduction is natural, but nothing sharp or oversaturated. Film grain is present and balanced and the presentation of the film is fine.The Sound:
The DTS-HD Master Audio track is much more dynamic that I was expecting. Dialogue sounds fine, but the soundtrack is clear and broad, and party sequences include thumping bass. The soundtrack handles quieter moments like anything at the lake house, which includes a good amount of environmental noise to help convey the immersion as well. Dialogue is consistent and requires little compensation, and the overall results are impressive.The Extras:
Not too many things here, but there is another meat behind a couple of them. There is a "Making Of" mini-feature (50:18), which includes interviews with Trier, Eskil Vogt, Reinsve, Lie and Nordrum among others. Trier discusses his origin story, working with Vogt and on his film philosophies. The inspirations and style choices in this film are reviewed, and Reinsve and the cast discuss how they came to the roles, and things like intent and ideas for editing and sound designed are shown, as well as the release and reception. It's a nice piece. There is an additional interview segment on THAT scene in the film (if you google the trailer you'll see it) and how tough it was to pull off, particularly in the age of Covid and film production (17:34). Four deleted scenes (11:16) are the other feature on the disc, and Sheila O'Malley includes a printed essay in your standard Criterion keepcase.Final Thoughts:
The Worst Person in the World gives us an interesting story accentuated by a breakthrough performance from its eponymous lead that I would have watched another half hour of if given the chance to. Technically, the disc is good and while there aren't as many supplements as your normal Criterion release, what's here is worth the time, and the film is as well, so do go see it.