Chris (Lars Eidinger) and Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr) have their ups and downs in their couple relationship. She is the publicist for a going nowhere rock band (and pays the household bills) and he is an architect who has never sold a design. They head off to his wealthy parents’ summer home in Sardinia and meet Hans (Hans-Jochen Wagner) and Sana (Nicole Marischka), a couple whose professional lives are moving in the fast lane. The new friends appear to be the perfect couple, or maybe not, in “Everyone Else.”
Director-writer Maren Ade creates a true “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” story with Gitti the warm-hearted one who wants to try new things and Chris a selfish prig who only wants to do what he wants to – like crassly asking a Muslim women directions to a local wet t-shirt contest. You can see that their trip to Sardinia is intended to bring the couple closer together, but Chris’s self-centered concerns drive a wedge between them. Enter Hans and Sana, who represent the life of privilege and success that Chris sees as his desserts.
The story follows an arc as you grow more empathetic toward Gitti and increasingly loath Chris. Hans is the foil for Chris, being everything he is not and having everything he has not. Hans is the alpha male, something Sana understands and respects (because he earned it). Chris, though, thinks that acting like an alpha dog, with Gitti, will make him one. It does not. Will Gitti and Chris break up? That is what helmer Ade wants you to keep guessing about. It does not hurt to have the sunny locale of Sardinia as a backdrop. I give it a B.
In Sardinia, Chris (Lars Eidinger) takes over the family vacation home from his sister (Carina N. Wiese). He's waiting to hear if he's won an architecture competition and deciding on whether to take a job reconstructing another German's vacation villa, all while trying to avoid his old friend Hans (Hans-Jochen Wagner), who's also vacationing on the island. Chris's girlfriend Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr, "Cherry Blossoms," "The White Ribbon") is disturbed by his inability to commit to anything and their relationship is beginning to fray, a lack of self confidence causing him to put up a wall just when she needs openness. When they cannot help but get together with Hans and Sana (Nicole Marischka). Chris finds Gitti's quirky behavior embarrassing but she is determined not to be like "Everyone Else."
Writer/director Maren Ade's second film won the Grand Jury and Best Actress prizes at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival and it is easy to see why - this is one of the best dissections of a male/female relationship that has ever been committed to film. Brilliantly written, this playful couple seems so attuned when we first meet them, at least until their own, particularly his, demons begin to meddle. The Sardinian locations don't hurt either, although Bernhard Keller's cinematography is uniformly excellent, whether focusing on the couple in close up within or framing them against sea and sky.
Gitte's charismatic and imaginative personality is on display from the outset as she pushes Chris's young niece Rebecca (Paula Hartmann) to act out her outrage, then later, applies makeup to his face. Chris responds to this - he makes a penis doll he calls Schnappi out of a piece of ginger root - but, not, we will see in public. He's in doubt about his manhood (he asks Gitti outright if she prefers him as a woman after the makeup play) and wants to project a masculine, successful image. The straight truth is, however, that he's mediocre and sponging off his wealthy parents. Gitti doesn't obsess about such things. She's more Bohemian, happier with less (she works in PR for a band no one's ever heard of).
A visit to the supermarket is revealing. When Gitti puts something in the cart 'for Schnappi,' Chris barks loudly that 'Schnappi eats what Schnappi gets.' Then when he 'coincidentally' runs into Hans at the meat counter (Chris and Gitte have a private joke about all the coincidences Hans seems to raise), he accepts the man he's been trying to avoid's dinner invitation, overturning plans Gitti had made with a couple he has not met (they meet later on the street and they are Bohos like she). Hans and Sana, who has just learned she is expecting, are obviously on a higher plane than Chris and Gitti, from the champagne they pour to the modern artsy glasses they pour it into. But when Hans proffers some light criticism and offer of assistance to Chris, Gitti, who has made her own honest observations to Chris about his personal roadblocks, comes charging to his defense. Hans dubs her Brunhilde.
There's even a bit of personality transference going on as Gitti tries to mold herself into what she thinks Chris wants (Sana). The 'bourgeois' dress she bought and immediately regretted does not get returned but worn. A saleswoman applies lip gloss on Gitti at a department store makeup counter and it looks less natural on her than the blush she put on Chris. But when she makes her final move, copping the fantasy Chris had of a way to enthrall her, it works because it was meant to suit her and it fits.
Lars Eidinger bravely makes his Chris both appealing and a bit of an asshole. His moments alone, like when he creates Schnappi, let us see his inner child, perhaps what Gitti saw in him, where they both are meant to be. His body language can be extreme, but speaks volumes. Minichmayr is mesmerizing, a life force, but her performance isn't just about cute quirk. She's able to undercut Gitte's own precocious play and give us a glimpse of what annoys Chris when she doesn't answer a question with the seriousness he is looking for. And, most amazingly, no matter how much these two fight themselves and each other, they seem so right together when they're not navel gazing.
"Everyone Else" is "Scenes from a Marriage" via "Men Are from Mars, Women are from Venus," but those came from a male viewpoint and with this film Maren Ade is a female filmmaker to watch.
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