Writer/director Lulu Wang’s debut film, Posthumous, is an unlikely romance between two genres: satire and screwball romantic comedy.
It doesn’t always hit the right notes when it comes to the former. The premise, which involves a case of mistaken identity and a struggling sculptor named Liam (Jack Huston) faking his death to make his work more valuable, is based on one of the oldest and most obvious jokes about the art world, and the film doesn’t get much more insightful or incisive than that. Lambert Wilson adds a droll note to the proceedings as Liam’s co-conspirator and art dealer, and the script provides a few good laughs along the way, but the humor is broad at best, often settling for goofy when biting would have been far more satisfying.
The love story is definitely stronger, thanks to a story that embraces the playfulness and charm of classic romantic comedies without succumbing to their more frustrating elements. Wang sets the stage for predictable hijinks when McKenzie (Brit Marling), a journalist looking for the perfect story to relaunch her career, decides to write about Liam. The still-living artist in question decides to pose as his own brother in order to talk to her, but the setup is quickly subverted in favor of smarter developments.
The ensuing love triangle that develops when McKenzie is forced to choose between Liam and her kind but distracted boyfriend (Alexander Fehling) is also refreshing. No one is shoehorned into a saintly or villainous role in the conflict; it’s just three complex people trying to figure out what works for them both personally and professionally.
It’s an imperfect union, but Posthumous still manages to charm more often than it disappoints. And it firmly establishes Lulu Wang as an artist who won’t have to wait until after her death to be appreciated in her field.