Janet Planet (2023)
June 30, 2024 7:18 AM - Subscribe

In rural Western Massachusetts, 11-year-old Lacy spends the summer of 1991 at home, enthralled by her own imagination and the attention of her mother, Janet. As the months pass, three visitors enter their orbit, all captivated by Janet. The directorial debut by Pulitzer winner and MacArthur Fellow playwright Annie Baker.

RogerEbert.com - Nicholson and Ziegler are an achingly perfect pair onscreen, both giving performances full of joy, sadness, introspection, and empathy. Our time with them as an audience feels precious. Janet Planet establishes the kind of realistic closeness between women and girls that has been mostly relegated to television in recent years. It feels like we spend a whole season with this little family and yet it still doesn’t seem like nearly enough time.

Rolling Stone - There’s a signature ambiguity, or maybe it’s simply a distrust of easy, bow-tied dramatic solutions, that colors where the story ends up as well. I’ve thought for months about Janet Planet‘s ending, and how it’s left open and unresolved in a way that suggests the contours and complicated aspects of a real mother-daughter relationship rather than a fictional one. Baker has already shown a facility for crafting character studies that threaten to bump up against prosceniums, and her seemingly limitless talents now extend to doing that same thing within a screen’s frame. Only the transition creates something else entirely within her left-of-center humanistic storytelling.

Variety - The journey to casting Ziegler was a long one for Baker, who recalls discovering the first-time actor with seismic gratitude.

"You feel Zoe’s intelligence immediately upon meeting her. I’m going to just embarrass her,” Baker says, turning to Ziegler apologetically. “It’s a nightmare to be 12 and be described in front of your face like this.”

“Annie was out there, combing the streets and the fairs and the schools and the mall,” Nicholson says, “She was, for a year, working any and every avenue, from professional actors to approaching people on the street. … And I read with a couple of professional young actors, who were great but who weren’t Lacy.”

“It’s really scary when you’re casting a movie that starts shooting in six months, and then four months, and then two months, and then one month, to keep saying no,” Baker says. “And then, man, you really don’t know until the first day of shooting if you cast the right kid. But then it was in the first five minutes: I was like, ‘Phew! We have a movie!’”
posted by Gorgik (1 comment total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Some thoughts:
-My wife suggested seeing this and gave me no context other than it was Annie Baker. We've seen four of her plays and liked them all. When I asked her if she knew what thr plot was, she said "if it's anything like her other work, it's not so much about a plot, and more about hanging out with these characters", and that's absolutely true for this film.

-Zoe Ziegler is so great. She was 10 when this was shot, and she has an uncommon intensity and authenticity.

-There's definitely a lot that feels like a play, like long single take conversations, but also some cool things that you can't do in the theater, like long tracking shots.

This is a small, quiet story, and especially if you enjoy live theater id suggest giving it a shot.
posted by Gorgik at 7:49 AM on June 30

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