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Stars At Noon at Marcus Point Cinema
October 14 @ 5:50 pm - October 20 @ 1:50 pm$5.28 – $13.72
Trish Johnson (Margaret Qualley) and Daniel DeHaven (Joe Alwyn) stare at each other longingly.
“Stars At Noon” is also screening at Marcus Palace Cinema.
A nascent folie à deux is crushed by the world being significantly more mad than two people can manage in French auteur Claire Denis’ new erotic political thriller Stars At Noon (2022). Based on the 1986 novel by Denis Johnson, the film transposes the original world-flattening event of the 1984 Nicaraguan revolution to a contemporary Nicaragua just as destabilized by COVID-19.
Trish Johnson (Margaret Qualley), an American would-be journalist can’t leave the country because a minor official is holding her passport, forcing her to resort to sex work as a means of survival. She is swept up by Daniel DeHaven (Joe Alwyn), an English oil executive who naively assumes that he can go against the tides of global power structures. Each is dependent on the other for more than just sex—Johnson hopes to use DeHaven as a way out of the country and DeHaven gradually learns how little knowledge he has of political machinations. But Central American heat and desperation ensure that the erotic connection is the bedrock of their relationship, which Denis shoots in her characteristic, swaying close-ups.
Stars At Noon is Denis’ third feature mostly in English, and her second to be distributed by A24. Qualley excels as Trish, portraying a kind of vulnerability mixed with ironic remove (and alcoholism), as if the protagonist of a Noah Baumbach New York indie got into some real trouble. Alwyn also brings a scruffy upper-class charm to his role as a would-be white savior who overestimates his own mysteriousness. Though Robert Pattinson was originally cast to play Daniel, before dropping out for The Batman (2022), Alywn more resembles a young Kenneth Branagh or Russell Crowe (Alwyn has also been dating Taylor Swift since 2016, so Swifties, you know what you have to do).
The delusion of white privilege drives the story forward, much like Denis’ past White Material (2009), just under even more severe scrutiny. Johnson and DeHaven never totally abandon their unspoken belief that their countries of origin will shield them, even as their situation becomes worse. Their attraction of convenience fuels their belief that going on the run will end well. The title song by frequent Denis collaborators Tindersticks is also worth noting—it’s an authentic-sounding piece of ‘60s Bossa Nova. Johnson and DeHaven share a slow dance in an empty dancehall that perfectly communicates how they view their relationship, despite all evidence to the contrary: two stars burning so brightly together that they’re visible when they shouldn’t be, if only anyone was around to look.
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