We live in moments, and we also live moment to moment. Sometimes, we tend to overstay our welcome in those moments, dwelling upon them the way one would the totaling of a car or losing the Super Bowl game. Millions of thoughts fly through our heads, resulting in deceptively long daydreams and fantasies that only last mere seconds in real time. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty speaks to this exact phenomenon, beguiling us as to how so much brain activity can result from one moment of our lives.
Viewing An Oversimplification of Her Beauty as a regular movie is not something done so easily; it is more like we’re watching writer/director Terence Nance’s stream of consciousness as he deals with being stood up on a date. Here, we venture down the paths of his mind, peeling back layer after layer until we get to what the root cause may be for this rejection. It’s a twisty journey that gets even more twisted with the inclusion of another film of Nance’s, How Would You Feel?, as Nance intercuts between the two at appropriate times in the story, each reflecting the other in very coincidental ways.
Never before have we ventured through the modern day human mind like we do with An Oversimplification of Her Beauty; the film goes up, down, and sideways, and it makes leaps to occurrences past and present to illustrate its point. It may feel like an art student film, but it’s one of the best art student films I’ve ever seen. Nance gives life to the human mind, using traditional film, animation, stop-motion animation, poetry, confessionals, and a steady narration that takes us through the turns that the story takes.
The main character, played by Nance himself, is seen almost to examine himself and his soul after getting stood up. He goes through almost every moment in his romantic life – some moments are divine, while others aren’t so much – and we see what decisions were made to put him in this position. Sometimes, we’re told how he got to where he is through narration, flashback, and a very elaborate sequence where the stop-motion version of himself is shown to be stumbling as he makes his way through his young adult life. Even though it’s not much for dramatic histrionics, this film instead makes the most of being a quirky and exciting trip into his psyche.
There’s a lot to like about An Oversimplification of Her Beauty. It’s artsy without being edgy; it’s beautiful without being dull; it’s witty without being barbed; and it’s funny without being ostentatious. That’s not to say that it’s a middling movie at all; on the contrary, the movie’s greatest strength is how normal it’s not. Sometimes, we lose our place in the film because of its surreal imagery and a few points where the narration drones, but it’s only just enough so that our senses are awoken for the next part of the movie. Our eyes and ears are engaged at every possible opportunity with different forms of his thoughts, making this a very brief, yet absolutely wondrously kinetic 85-minute foray into our main character’s life.
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