Little Joe (2019)

JESSICA HAUSNER

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

///, 2019, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Screenplay by , Jessica Hausner.  Cinematography by Produced by , , Martin Gschlacht, Jessica Hausner, , Music by Production Design by . Costume Design by Film Editing by Cannes Film Festival 2019.

Scientists working to genetically engineer house plants that are beautiful to the eye and sensually pleasant to the olfactory organs are developing a flower that breeder has named Little Joe after her son.  She and the entire crew are not aware that, in creating a plant whose scent is designed to cause happiness in those who smell it, they have also created something of a Little Shop of Horrors situation: the plant, which has also been engineered to be sterile, is determined to survive and when its pollen enters the sniffer’s body, they become obsessed with it, bringing others into contact with it in order to make sure they ingest its pollen as well.   At first Beecham rejects evidence of the matter because the information comes from the one emotionally unstable doctor () at her ultra-modern, sleekly designed lab, but after she starts to notice odd behaviour from co-worker as well as her son, for whom she brought a flower home against company policy, she begins to believe the possibility that something is going very wrong.  Jessica Hausner smoothly guides this funny, subtle exploration of the difficulties of modern life as pitted against modern technological obsessions, avoiding the avenues that someone like David Cronenberg would take this potentially horrific situation to and instead staying focused on the psychological fragility of her characters.  The confidence of these well-educated wizards of science to keep nature under control is treated like hubris but not in a judgmental or exploitative way, the story’s controlled nature is summed up beautifully in the precision of Beecham’s insightful and charismatic performance.  The imagery is unforgettable, from the neon glow of the flowers to the clean surfaces of the furniture, while the musical score, which pits the sound of Japanese ghost stories against the flashy contemporary imagery, encourages a creepy mood.

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