HomeMoviesJanet Planet, Annie Baker: Movie Review and Film Summary 2024

Janet Planet, Annie Baker: Movie Review and Film Summary 2024

The scene when little, depressed Lacy (Zoe Ziegler) implores her mother Janet (Julianne Nicholson) to get her from summer camp ahead of schedule is tense and dramatic. “I’m going to kill myself,” she admits. “I said I’m going to kill myself if you don’t come get me.” When Janet comes the following morning, Lacy’s song has already changed: “I thought nobody liked me, but I was wrong.” Her mother reacts bluntly: “This is a bad pattern.”

It’s a hilarious line that swiftly exposes us to the nature of their relationship: a girl clinging to her mother, unsure of how to be without her, while the mother questions her parenting abilities. Should a daughter still embrace her mother so tightly? Is it the mother’s responsibility to establish additional distance? Lacy keeps a close eye on Janet via her wire-framed spectacles.

Even at night, she finds it difficult to sleep without her close by. When Janet attempts to leave the bed that night, Lacy requests a piece of her. Janet rips off a strand of hair and presents it to her daughter, who looks at it with love.

Annie Baker’s directorial debut, “Janet Planet,” is as minimalist and introspective as her stage work. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer creates a rich portrayal of a mother and daughter living in rural Massachusetts in 1991, wandering calmly across the grass and towering trees, building out a peaceful existence for them. Even the title “Janet Planet” underscores how Lacy’s universe is shaped in Janet’s image since her existence is the only example of love, companionship, and women she has ever known.

Janet works from home as an acupuncturist, which enables her to comfort her partner Wayne (Will Patton), a disturbed elderly man, with few words. Their relationship seems to be dependent on Janet’s caring presence in his life, which forces Lacy to compete with him for her mother’s attention and love. Through discussion, we find that Janet has a pattern of dating guys that aren’t suited for her, but Lacy doesn’t understand why.

We initially encounter Janet as her daughter sees her, in short windows of time filtered through her 11-year-old perceptions. She, Wayne, and Lacy form a love triangle, with Janet in the center, attempting to preserve the peace. However, most of the tension is minor enough to go unnoticed by a stranger. Everything about their life together is peaceful, yet the quietness conceals intense emotional insecurity.

“Janet Planet” follows Lacy and her mother’s life for a few months, with individuals coming and going from Janet’s orbit. Lacy spends her time away from Janet taking piano lessons and playing with her tiny stage of figurines. Lacy has no pals, which is “a complete mystery” to her.

However, from the outside, the solution seems to be clear: she is too in love with her mother to allow anybody else in. While she does connect with other children, most notably with Wayne’s daughter Sequoia, Lacy prefers to be with her mother and other adults who support her precocious nature.

Janet and Lacy attend a performance in the woods, complete with extravagant costumes and beautiful language, which is the film’s most exciting moment. Janet has broken up with Wayne and is now a free agent again. With the entire splendor of their surroundings on display, Janet and Lacy are briefly transported from their peaceful, sometimes difficult lives to a lovely and full-of-hope location.

This scene exposes the pattern of their lives: Janet moves from lover to lover while Lacy observes, with little moments of alone time when the two cling together and recover. There are many films about single moms and their children, but “Janet Planet” stands out because it illustrates what it’s like to be a little girl watching your mother live with equal wonder and empathy.

In one of the film’s greatest sequences, Janet and her friend Regina (Sophie Okonedo) are both high and talking about their lives from infancy to early adulthood. Regina discusses her difficult childhood and an anonymous letter delivered to her father that altered her life path. Janet talks of her “Holocaust survivor father and angry mother” and the pigeon they gave her as a youngster when she asked for a pet.

It’s an amusing and friendly moment when two friends reconcile, but then the discussion takes a turn. Janet starts out by talking about her choices and how she perceives herself and other people to be judging her for them. Regina answers by encouraging her companion not to deceive herself or explain her disastrous decisions in romance and life.

Once the disagreement is resolved, it is revealed that Lacy has been sitting there the whole time, calmly listening to this adult debate that indirectly affects her. Janet’s decisions have resulted in her. She is her mother’s legacy, and she understands it despite her tender age.

Onscreen, Nicholson and Ziegler make an achingly perfect duo, providing performances full of pleasure, grief, insight, and empathy. Our time as an audience feels valuable. Janet Planet creates the type of authentic intimacy between women and girls that has been mostly limited to television in previous years. It seems like we’ve spent the whole season with this tiny family, yet it still doesn’t seem like enough time.

Baker’s world-building for her characters is rich, warm, and lovely. By the time character actor Elias Koteas appears as Avi (another prospective boyfriend for Janet), the film is already nearing its beautiful finale. It’s heartbreaking to watch our time with Janet and Lacy come to a close. Fortunately, we can always return to Janet Planet.

Abubakar is a writer and digital marketing expert. Who has founded multiple blogs and successful businesses in the fields of digital marketing, software development. A full-service digital media agency that partners with clients to boost their business outcomes.

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