HBO’s Doll & Em Star Dolly Wells premiered her directorial debut, Good Posture, at the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday.

Good Posture stars the breakout talent Grace Van Patten (Tramps, The Meyerwitz Stories) as Lillian, an aimless young woman trying to take responsibility for her life, and longtime Wells-collaborator Emily Mortimer (Doll & Em, The Newsroom) as Julia Price, an acclaimed author who becomes Lillian’s unlikely friend.

After she’s dumped by her live-in boyfriend who’s fed up with her lack of drive, Lillian’s well-connected father calls in a favor from musician-friend Don, who lets her move into a tiny bedroom in the Bed-Stuy brownstone he shares with his wife Julia.

Julia Price (Emily Mortimer), Lilian (Grace Van Patten) Photo credit: Savannah Jankaosky.

Like Lillian, Julia is reclusive and spends most of her time in her bedroom writing. She’s irritated by her new houseguest’s indoor weed-smoking and sloppiness. Her frustrations erupt into a tiff with Don, causing him to storm out and take up residence elsewhere through the remainder of the film.

Communicating through journal notes, Lillian and Julia gradually make peace with each other. Likewise, viewers slowly warm up to Lillian, too, even though it’s not easy to feel sorry for an entitled young woman whose father is always standing behind her with a checkbook. But, to the credit of Van Patten’s performance and Wells’ direction, Lillian becomes a deeply sympathetic character when we learn that, despite being spoiled, she’s never really been nurtured.

In an ill-fated attempt to win her ex back, Lillian begins making an unauthorized documentary about Julia. The doc is never finished since Julia refuses to participate, but the film-within-a-film does afford excellent cameos from novelists Zadie Smith, Martin Amis and Jonathan Ames, as they improv convincing testimonials to Julia’s literary brilliance.

Despite Lillian’s growth, Good Posture doesn’t leave us with an idea of what precisely has changed, or what comes next. A cheery ukulele sing-along toward the end is probably meant to give viewers a sense of resolution, but only gave me a sense of embarrassment.

Lilian (Grace Van Patten), Julia Price (Emily Mortimer). Photo credit: Savannah Jankaosky.

Good Posture is worth watching for its laugh-out-loud comedic moments, brilliant performances from Van Patten, John Early (Search Party, Portlandia) and Zadie Smith, and for its surprising take on the well-worn ‘Young White Girl Trying to Make It in New York’ genre. Just don’t look for a satisfying conclusion or the kind of deep character transformations we’ve been conditioned to expect.

 Good Posture is now playing at the Tribeca Film Festival. For screening times and tickets, go here.

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Alex Williamson

Alex Williamson is a Brooklyn-based reporter whose work has appeared in Brooklyn Eagle, Queens Eagle, Gothamist and elsewhere.

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