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Tribeca 2021: Parts of “Poser” sing, but the whole warbles

Poser

The Columbus music scene-set drama/thriller boasts strong acting and striking tunes, but the balance of its genre blend is frustrating.

Noah Dixon & Ori Segev’s combined directorial debut, Poser, revolves around the Columbus underground music scene and its thriving cast of artists who perform in houses, warehouses, and bars throughout the Ohio city. More specifically, the drama-thriller focuses tightly on inclusion within the space. It follows podcast host and wannabe-musician Lennon (Sylvie Mix), in order to take a look at how we attempt to insert ourselves into situations, into groups, and into communities, hoping for acceptance but receiving a mild welcome in return.

The film begins with Lennon starting a podcast about the Columbus scene, complete with clips and interviews from real Columbus musicians. She tries to absorb the world around her by recording everything she can. The story of her obsession is familiar – it’s an all-consuming interest that could well devour her.

Poser becomes more compelling once Bobbi Kitten enters the fold. The Columbus musician plays a fictionalized version of herself: enigmatic, talented, and above all else, cool. Kitten is in the inner circle of the scene, spending her free time at performance art shows and wielding the talent Lennon wishes she had. The contrast between the two women extends from their talent to their sense of style to the way they carry themselves. Kitten’s performance – and the contrast she and Mix build into their characters – breathes excitement into the film. It elevates her fellow actors’ work, and with them Poser as a whole.

Poser attempts to explore, fear, longing and mimickry, butstruggles to take these concepts beyond a thesis statement.

But where Kitten’s a radiant star of life, Lennon’s a specter. She exists within the scene, rather than engaging with it. Often, while others move and dance around her, Poser focuses on the world as Lennon sees it, someone almost invisible to her own supposed friend group and family. Poser attempts to explore, fear, longing and mimickry, butstruggles to take these concepts beyond a thesis statement. It coasts on the expectation of thrills rather than executing actual scares.

Dixon and Segev’s script hurtles towards a third act that you’ve seen before, losing its intrigue and interest the longer it runs. Its first hour though is compelling. It’s a frantic introduction to a specific community through shaky camerawork and solid sound design, built from the good grunge of the shows Lennon attends.

Poser
Poser (Tribeca)

In the middle of Poser is Mix, a quiet actor who looks both piqued and saddened by every passing person. Her performance sits in her eyes and her mouth, slow to smile and quick to dart away from initial conflict. Mix is meek yet alarming in her inaction, her ceaseless recordings, her desire to be like Kitten, and her dogged insistence that the Columbus music community is her community. Lennon’s more than a misfit, and Mix plays her with an eeriness that helps with the turns Poser takes towards its conclusion.

For their first feature, Dixon and Segev have crafted a personal, fixated film. It locks its gaze on a fascinating community largely unknown to the wider world. Poser‘s young actors and musicians are a legitimately talented crew. Unfortunately, its mix of drama and thriller is ungainly It bites off a bit of each genre and aims to combine them, but only commits to one being the primary past the point where it can do the necessary buildup for that to fully work. But, between Dixon and Segev’s craft and Mix and Kitten’s good work, Poser’s creative team is promising.

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