Another Earth Pits Beauty Versus Sci-Fi with the Former Winning

Brit Marling, the lithe, stunning co-writer and star of Mike Cahill's Another Earth, plays Rhoda, a 17-year-old who is celebrating her acceptance to MIT on the same night that a new planet is discovered. Called Earth 2 by the denizens of Earth 1, this planet will prove to house a parallel universe populated by doppelgängers for each Earth resident.

Buzzed on beer and distracted by this new orb on the horizon, Rhoda crashes her car into a sedan carrying re-nowned composer John Burroughs (William Mapother) and his pregnant wife and young son. Burroughs is left comatose, his family dead, and Rhoda spends the next four years in jail instead of college. Then things really get complicated.

Post-prison, she talks her way into Burroughs's secluded home; instead

of putting the pieces together, Burroughs puts the moves on her while

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Rhoda takes a job as a janitor, her golden locks trailing out from under

a gray beanie, blowing her cover as an anonymous plebe. Improbably

receptive to this broken-down middle-aged man's advances, the nubile

impostor keeps her actual identity mum until plot contrivance forces a

confession.

She also enters an essay contest to win a trip on a Richard Branson-like

entrepreneur's shuttle to Earth 2. "As a felon, I'm an unlikely

candidate for most things, but perhaps not for this," she argues.

"Perhaps, I'm the most likely."

Handheld, grainy, and under-lit, Another Earth is routinely so ugly that

Marling's extravagant, appropriately otherworldly beauty functions as

its most impressive special effect. As the relationship between the

gullible sad sack and the flaxen-haired fraud overtakes the

interplanetary premise as the driving force of the film, it becomes

clear that Marling's primary--if potentially unconscious--subject is the

politics and mechanics of beauty as a tool of manipulation.

You could

argue that Marling has written what she knows, but she's also created

for her-self a character whose undeniable physical appeal overwhelms all

other aspects of her personality, in a film so drunk on that appeal

that even a suicide attempt is sexualized.

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