Music is a great way to start a conversation. Everyone has a favorite song, band, and concert that, at a moment’s notice, they’re willing to discuss at length, even with a stranger. I have always been addicted to music. When I turned sixteen, my first job was in a record store alphabetizing the music and movie libraries within, holding court with the other staff members in High Fidelity type scenarios, discussing each other’s top five desert island discs, or something to that effect. Conversations were easy. Sometimes a customer left the store with a couple of extra CDs based on my recommendations. Other times I was the one going home with new music. So how might a troubled person go about making friends as an adult in the digital age? For Lennon (Sylvie Mix) in Noah Dixon and Ori Segev’s feature film debut Poser, it’s a simple process of researching the local music scene and using a podcast as a way to gain access.
Through an early montage of introduction featuring Lennon interviewing various undiscovered bands in the underground Columbus music scene as a part of her podcast, Poser establishes Lennon’s fascination with the beautiful rockstar that graces the cover of a record while shopping for local vinyl at a trendy shop. Lennon books interview after interview through the guise of her outwardly entrepreneurial spirit, and we watch as a cassette tape storage rack fills up with the labels of band names she’s asked to appear. Systematically, this brings her closer to the beautiful starlet of Damn the Witch Siren and Lennon’s affinity for lead singer Bobbi Kitten.
From the start of Poser, I knew I was in for something different. The stoicism on young Lennon’s face while interviewing the artists, street poets, and musicians didn’t add up to the typical excitement one feels when interviewing people they admire. In other words, you’re meant for all of this to seem a little off. You can immediately tell that there is some tribulation within Lennon, who is more affected by music based on how she thinks she should respond to it rather than how she might actually feel, if she even responds at all. This all gives pause to Lennon’s mental state right at the start of the film and her desperation to insert herself into it.
Poser does a lot to both glamorize and poke fun at the world it brings to the audience. In the film’s opening art gallery scene and later in a performance art scene, we see the pretentiousness of the subjective world of these characters. Art can both inspire or infuriate and, when done right, can absolutely entrance you. The result of the performance art scene is one of perfect immersion, and the only time Lennon seems to be moved by an experience. The result helps romanticize the world Lennon seeks to be part of while considering the absurd lengths people will go to simply be involved with it.
As Lennon makes progress in carving out a name for herself within the art and music scene, there’s this added pressure for her to succeed beyond being herself. Opportunistically plagiarizing song lyrics from the unreleased material of bands she’s had on her podcast for credibility within the world of songwriters Bobbi belongs to. Naively, Lennon believes she’ll continue to pass as the real deal as she reveals these fraudulent lyrics to her new friends. Her motives fall into stark contrast to Bobbi Kitten’s Damn the Witch Siren counterpart, Z Wolf, who is always seen wearing a wolf mask. As Bobbi explains, he wears the mask as a literal interpretation of his persona. In contrast, Lennon, who presents as a vulnerable deer in the headlights, hides her true nature, appearing in sheep’s clothing. Things start to fall apart as Lennon and Bobbi get closer, and Lennon’s veneer is exposed for what it is.
I have to give a lot of credit to this cast of newcomers and musical acts that help pack a punch in Poser. Sylvie Mix is incredible in presenting Lennon as someone who can recognize talent without ever portraying an emotion of particular enjoyment. And Bobbi Kitten, who plays a version of herself, embodies the fearlessness of the rockstar persona while remaining grounded and accessible. This all works to glorious effect as Noah Dixon’s script becomes darker and more atmospheric, utilizing a breadcrumb trail of clues that were present all along like Lennon’s hairstyle, which begins to be noticed in an increasing Single White Female sort of way, particularly as Lennon and Bobbi gaze into the mirror to do their makeup together. Then, when the pieces start falling into place, Poser transitions from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist into more of a mashup with The Talented Mr. Ripley.
After only a few days of watching films at the Tribeca Film Festival, Poser has emerged as my frontrunner in the U.S. narrative category. There may be a few nitpicks that I have with it, but in the grand scope of things, Poser is the real deal. Everything about the presentation of this wonderful indie is spectacularly captivating. Also, the soundtrack is absolute fire. As someone who spends evenings writing in front of a computer with a turntable spinning or Spotify streaming, I will be keeping an eye out for a physical soundtrack or playlist to emerge. I’ve already started following bands WYD and Damn the Witch Siren on Spotify, but a full tracklist featuring the other talented acts in the film would really hit the spot.
Poser is now playing as an official selection of The Tribeca Film Festival.