Review: Social Animals
Writer-director Theresa Bennett's feature debut Social Animals is a solid entry in the recent influx of female-driven comedies, one that seeks to counter typical representations for a more engrossing and full of feeling narrative.
Noel Wells of Saturday Night Live and Master of None fame plays Zoe, a woman in her late 20s dealing with a failing business, being behind on her rent payments, and living a love life of one-night stands with no romantic attachments. She ends up forming a companionship with Paul (How I Met Your Mother's Josh Radnor), the owner of a video store about to go out of business, on top of dealing with a crumbling marriage and torturous family life. His wife Jane (You're the Worst's Aya Cash) proposes an affair to spice things up, leading Paul to consider being more than just friends with Zoe.
Social Animals is charming with how it plots its course, even when venturing into explicit territory. This is best characterized by the range of cute, animated intertitles that introduce each character by name along with a drawing of their favorite sexual position. The film provides a relief from the typical, archetypally driven romantic comedies we're used to seeing, and it's a decidedly female-driven endeavor in front and behind the camera.
What's most interesting is the way in which it makes room for commentary on the evolving nature of this generation of would-be adults, those dealing with newfound or unexpected responsibilities, while trying to do what they can to shed them, if at all. Set in a gentrifying Austin, Texas, the story is surrounded by a range of characters exemplifying the desire to remain in the past versus those who are doing what they can to move forward. The inclusion of remnants of a bygone, analog era like video stores and the Polaroid photos Zoe takes of her one night stands add to the feeling, not to mention her own dealings with a cutting-edge wax salon known as 'Lazer Town' taking away all her customers.
With good jokes that are raunchy without being overwhelming, coupled with a very laid back soundtrack of local Austin bands, and a great cast of characters that also includes Carly Chaikin, Samira Wiley, and Fortune Feimster, Social Animals comes recommended for anyone looking to see a sex-positive indie from a promising director.