You might watch Alex Ross Perry’s Golden Exits for the lighting. Cinematographer Sean Price Williams’ light is impressionistic without being pushy. Perry’s dissatisfied New Yorkers live and work in spaces gently shaded by colorful lights. Sometime those lights reflect on their necks and hands, gently tinting their sadness about their situations. The colors frame them rather than flood them.
You might also watch Golden Exits for Keegan DeWitt’s plaintive score. DeWitt’s music gives dignity to their admittedly privileged problems of having too many people who want to sleep with them and too much freedom to pursue their dreams and too volumnous of a father’s legacy to care for after his death. Though their sufferings may be only thinly pitiable, they are still people, and their pain is still real. The score communicates their loneliness and emptiness and cradles them as they work to find peace in their lives.
Then again, you might watch Golden Exits for Robert Greene’s editing. These characters are all loosely connected in a web of familial, romantic, and professional relationships and in a web of confusing, inexpressible desire for something more resilient in their lives. The characters in Golden Exits talk a lot, but they rarely say what they mean. They don’t seem capable of knowing what they mean let alone saying it. Greene’s editing says more, cross-fading between them to show one character in the same emotional place as another, qualifying one character’s realization with the realization of another, linking one character’s sadness to another. Golden Exits has all the urgency of a long sigh, but Greene’s editing fills that sigh with meaning.
And so I suppose due credit must be given to the film’s writer/director Alex Ross Perry. It’s his direction that coalesces all these elements into such a wistful, resigned film. That resignation about the inherent sadness of life, the inability of any one of us to really know another or be known by another, and the wateriness of trust between people inundates every moment of Golden Exits.
The situation—a man with a history of infidelity hires an attractive new assistant whose presence causes ripples in this community of New Yorkers; a movie about how the actions of men affect women—is something out of a Woody Allen film, but where Allen would highlight moments of absurd humor—see the scene where Mickey finds reason to live at a matinee showing of a Marx Bros movie in Hannah and Her Sisters—Perry doubles down on the melancholy, ennobling it, pointing to it as proof that something more is possible. Consolation is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it brief in Golden Exits, but it’s there, and for such a sad film, I left feeling hopeful.