The Pretty One still

The Pretty One, written and directed by Jenée LaMarque, also deals in death and loneliness, but boasts a brighter tone and more outlandish characters. Zoe Kazan stars as identical twins Audrey and Laurel (pictured above), who couldn't be more different. Audrey is outgoing, chic and independent. She owns a duplex in the city and works as a broker selling people their dream homes. Timid Laurel still lives in her childhood bedroom, caring for her widowed father and wearing the dresses her late mother once donned. She's stuck in a rut until a cruel twist of fate gives her the chance to become the sister she's so long admired.

Its premise seems like something out of film noir's playbook, but LaMarque has a lot of fun with this plot while Laurel masquerades as her sister as a way to keep her around a little longer. It's a tricky balance between heartbreaking moments of grief and heartwarming scenes of Laurel finally embracing her life and individuality, and LaMarque and Kazan handle it with an impressive grace and wit.

Kazan turns in one of her funniest performances yet as the blossoming Laurel. And New Girl's Jake Johnson (as Basel, Audrey's tenant/Laurel's love interest) earns another victory on his quest to become the thinking woman's most crushable sex symbol. Johnson and Kazan share a downright charming chemistry, even when their lovebirds fall into calling each other almost sickeningly sweet nicknames. Ron Livingston makes a fun and unexpected appearance as Audrey's super suave ex, and John Carroll Lynch is perfectly heartbreaking as Laurel and Audrey's loving but painfully silent father.

After a day of watching movies about death and regret, I'd worried I'd be too emotionally tapped out to engage with The Pretty One. But in approaching a self-discovery story from this unexpected source, LaMarque's smart sense of humor pulled me in completely. The Pretty One is daring, original, poignant, sweet, and thoroughly funny. It's definitely among my favorite of the fest so far. Hopefully, this is just the start of LaMarque's moviemaking.

For more of our Tribeca Film Festival coverage, click here.

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