Brit Marling, the lithe, stunning co-writer and star of Mike Cahill's Another Earth, plays Rhoda, a 17-year-old who is celebrating her acceptance to MIT on the same night that a new planet is discovered. Called Earth 2 by the denizens of Earth 1, this planet will prove to house a parallel universe populated by doppelgängers of every Earth resident. Buzzed on beer and distracted by this new orb on the horizon, Rhoda crashes her car into a sedan carrying renowned composer John Burroughs (William Mapother) and his pregnant wife and young son. Burroughs is left comatose, his family dead, and Rhoda spends the next four years in jail instead of college. Post-prison, she talks her way into Burroughs' secluded home; instead of putting the pieces together, Burroughs puts the moves on her. Handheld, grainy, and under-lit, Another Earth is routinely so ugly that Marling's extravagant, appropriately otherworldly beauty functions as its most impressive special effect. As the relationship between the gullible sad sack and the flaxen-haired fraud overtakes the interplanetary premise as the driving force of the film, it becomes clear that Marling's primary—if potentially unconscious—subject is the politics and mechanics of beauty as a tool of manipulation. You could argue that Marling has written what she knows, but she's also created for herself a character whose undeniable physical appeal overwhelms all other aspects of her personality, in a film so drunk on that appeal that even a suicide attempt is sexualized.
Earth girls are easy? Actress/writer Marling.
Opens at Harvard Exit, Fri., Aug. 5. Rated PG-13. 92 minutes.