Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat play hedonistic party-girls in this prosaic, muddled dramedy from Sophie Hyde
An adaptation of Emma Jane Unsworth’s book that is, admirably, as slippery as the written word can be, Sophie Hyde’s Animals finds it difficult to live up to how much it undercuts rom-com tradition. The central drunken pairing of Alia Shawkat’s Tyler, a disorderly, independent-minded singleton, and Holliday Grainger’s Laura, the (slightly) less raucous and more future-conscious of the two, begins to buckle when Laura falls for and becomes engaged to a tall, dark piano player named Jim.
The film rarely goes all-in on a difficult, messy fallout between Laura and Tyler, which makes for an enjoyable break from the typical gal pal format. But Laura’s aspirations as a novelist bring out poor, self-defeating stabs at profundity from Hyde, as Tyler incessantly encourages Laura towards 'truth' to motivate her to finish her novel. It’s not insincere, but it reads as though it is, which makes its honest, more reliable depiction of friendship as it pertains to rom-coms less easy to swallow. Shawkat’s girl-about-town, with sardonic shades of Bette Davis, is the film’s highlight. [Thomas Atkinson]