For a while, it looked like this would involve choosing the right man. Julie’s father (Vidar Sandem) is a neglected narcissist, and she’s fortunate that both Aksel and Eivind are much nicer boys. Some of this is a sign of generational progress – not that 21st-century Norway, as Julie experiences it, is exactly a feminist utopia.
Five movies to watch this winter
Shortly after their first bond, Aksel tries to end his relationship with Julie because of their age difference, worried that their incompatible expectations will cause trouble. between them. “That was the moment she fell in love with him,” the narrator notes, before Julie goes on to prove him right.
His Generation X friends, grappling with parenthood and the specter of middle age, look handsome and vulnerable in her millennial eyes. He’s made a name for himself in his career, and even somewhat famous, thanks to an underground comic book that Julie finds “vaguely sexist”. (It would later be denounced by a radio critic as unwarrantedly sexist) (In that, their relationship resembled that of Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps in Mia Hansen. -Love’s “Bergman Island.”)
One night, Julie wanders out of Aksel and disrupts the wedding, which is where she meets Eivind. He’s also in a relationship, and they spend the evening testing the line between flirting and cheating. They’re technically always on the right side of that line, though their platonic interactions are hotter than some of the movie’s actual sex scenes.
Nobody is perfect. When Aksel compliments an essay Julie has written, she is extremely skeptical and encouraging. When Eivind complimented her writing, she was indignant. Aksel is too intellectual; Eivind is not wise enough. “Are you going to continue serving coffee until you’re 50?” she mocked him. Meanwhile, she is still working in the bookstore.
So she’s not the most beautiful person in the world. One thing you might notice is that she doesn’t seem to have any female friends. Is this her omission, or evidence of an imaginative blind spot on Trier and Vogt’s part? Reinsve’s performance is lively, creative and grounded – she totally deserves it acting award she won at Cannes last year – but to some extent, Julie is still a middle-aged man’s idea of a younger woman. If that sounds like I’m berating, I’d like to add that the same holds true for Anna Karenina, Hedda Gabler, and most of Henry James’ heroines. Also, being a middle-aged man myself, I don’t fully trust my reaction to the character.
Who does the movie think she is? It’s a different question than the one I started with, but it’s an interesting question in its own right and a Trier honest enough to leave it open. If “World’s Ugliest Man” is about Julie’s hesitation, it’s also about Trier’s conflict. Some of the suspense in the movie comes from wondering what he will do to her, and how much he loves her, he can find a way to free her.
World’s ugliest person
Rated R. Sex, Drugs and Art Garfunkel cover “Waters of March” by Tom Jobim. In Norwegian, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 7 minutes. In the theater.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/03/movies/the-worst-person-in-the-world-review.html ‘World’s Ugliest Person’ Review: Oslo, Her Way