Oh, I cannot begin to tell you how much I despised this movie. Nah, I’m being overdramatic: I certainly can begin to tell you. I started loathing Another Earth exactly five minutes into the picture, during which time the heroine drank at a party while talking about astrophysics, drove home tipsily listening to the radio, heard from the DJ that a new planet had appeared in the night sky, and began peering out her window into the heavens. At this point, I knew with absolute certainty that she would plow her car into a sedan containing the world’s most contented nuclear family. This happened, which was annoying enough. But I could not have predicted that the scene would fade out with an elegantly framed shot of blood pooling around a small child’s head. That also happened, and with that shameless image I knew Another Earth and I were through.
Only later did I realize that Another Earth both starred and was co-written by Brit Marling, the ballyhooed Georgetown quadruple threat (writer, director, actress, economist) who has been featured in several glossy magazine profiles explaining how she would not settle for the roles given to good-looking young blondes, and wrote better ones for herself. This sensation of double-dealing extends to her character, Rhoda, who emerges from a four-year prison stretch—her hair looks great upon release, by the way—and decides to take on work as a janitor, because she deserves no better, and to apply to a private space program offering rocket trips to the second Earth that is approaching our planet, because she deserves a chance to start over. Yes, you heard right: There’s a second Earth. I’d tell you more about it, but Marling and her director/co-writer Mike Cahill are not interested in the science of their science-fiction conceit, but in the power of Earth 2 as a symbol. Fine: I won’t quibble about realism. The problem is that what happens on Earth 1 is infinitely wretched and literal-minded. The appearance of the second planet is by far the least idiotic thing that happens in this movie. I won’t give away the plot twists; I’ll just say that at the 30-minute mark, feeling irritated, I wrote down the stupidest possible outcome of the story I could imagine, and that is exactly what happened.
Another Earth has been met predominantly with glowing reviews. I find this baffling and maddening, like seeing a popular kid stand up in a school assembly and read poems about his goldfish, then be hailed as the voice of a new generation. But I would hate Another Earth even if it were friendless and derided. I have given it a 10 out of a possible 100, which means I thought it was worse than Hobo With a Shotgun or Larry Crowne or Zookeeper. This may seem unlikely, but those movies were honest in their dreadfulness—even people who liked them knew they were junk food—while Another Earth, which is as authentically “indie” as a can of Pringles, postures as existentially profound because it makes sad faces. It contains a subplot about a lonely old man (Kumar Pallana, the kindly Wes Anderson veteran) who has poured bleach in his eyes because the world was too painful to see, and then later pours bleach in his ears because—yep. Naturally, the only person who has suffered enough to understand this man is...Rhoda. Fine: She can have her trip to the other Earth. I would rather watch another movie—any other movie. PG-13.
10 SEE IT: Another Earth opens Friday at Cinema 21.