‘Pretty Problems’ Movie Review [SXSW 2022]: J.J. Nolan Boosts an Overly-Familiar Comedy

Pretty Problems is a comedy about privileged life experiences. Kestrin Pantera directs a screenplay written by Michael Tennant that only goes skin-deep. However, its cast flexes solid chemistry, occasionally elevating the material. However, Pretty Problems is light on both the comedy and the dramatic beats.

‘Pretty Problems’ introduces new friends and a class divide

Jack (Tennant) and Lindsay (Britt Rentschler) are a married couple in a rut, but everything changes when a kooky woman named Cat (J.J. Nolan) shows up at her boutique shop. They quickly develop a friendship and she invites the couple to Sonoma Chateau to meet her husband, Matt (Graham Outerbridge).

Pretty Problems finds Jack and Lindsay meeting their fellow affluent friends, Kerry (Alex Klein) and Carrie (Charlotte Ubben). They are fish out of water but try their best to fit in. Jack and Lindsay are about to experience the most outrageous weekend of their lives. Will their relationship survive the out-of-control antics with their new wealthy friends?

Director Kestrin Pantera weaves comedy into a story about life experiences

Pretty Problems places Jack and Lindsay’s relationship at the movie’s core. The film opens with an awkward sex scene, indicating their inability to connect physically or emotionally. They love each other, but life’s hardships hinder their ability to close the gap. However, their adventures with Cat and Matt will only further test the weakest points in their relationship.

Jack sells solar panels and Lindsay works in the boutique shop, but they both have greater aspirations. There’s a level of envy that turns into jealousy as they see the couple’s beyond lavish lifestyle.  Tennant’s screenplay brings the majority of its humor to the attitudes and lifestyles that result from this level of wealth compared to more typical ways of living.

Pretty Problems combines the central romance with a sense of class divide. Lindsay wants to impress their new friends, while Jack sees through many of the strange mind games that they seem to be playing. Pantera explores commentary on classism as it applies to the vastly different couples. Both groups have their own issues that are innate to humanity, but their wealth sure makes for an experience to remember, for better or worse.

‘Pretty Problems’ is a familiar festival comedy

Jack is understandably wary entering this weekend. He jokes that they’re likely going to kill them for sport, similar to The Purge. Movies from the past year or so feature a similar premise of the leads taking strangers up on an offer to spend time together, including Speak No Evil and Vacation Friends. This concept lends itself to various genres, with Pretty Problems operating as a comedy, sprinkled with romance.

Pantera tackles the relatable notion that many folks simply float through life without a concrete passion or dream to reach for. The characters are essentially collecting experiences and learning more about themselves and each other along the way. However, there’s no telling how that will impact their relationships moving forward. Much like real life, Pretty Problems evolves its characters under the context of their experiences.

Tennant turns in a sympathetic performance as Jack, but Nolan is a particular stand-out for her comedic timing as Cat. Her entire demeanor perfectly captures the character, hitting on comedic beats with ease. However, Pretty Problems is about as superficial as it makes its wealthy characters out to be. It’s an agreeable experience that doesn’t quite step out of the box enough to make it particularly memorable.

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