SXSW 2018: Wobble Palace
Wobble Palace tells a story about two cringe-inducing people, drawn to each other for a moment, and stuck together for far longer. Their denial about this fact spills over to other aspects of their lives, individually, as they refuse to address the end of their life together.
On their separate ways to this realization, both Jane and Eugene (Dasha Nekrasova and writer/director Eugene Kotlyarenko, respectively) make impulsive and “living in the moment” decisions. All in order to get the rush of dopamine they haven’t experienced together for quite some time.
Their attempts to recapture that feeling have trainwreck-like results, both repulsing and transfixing the viewer: Eugene gets a Tinder match who takes compromising photos and humiliates him via Tumblr post, calling out his plainly ridiculous front ponytail, and finds out another is a professional dominatrix who flakes on their date to get ready for work. Jane makes a move on first an embarrassing skater boy who rebuffs her. She also sets up a hook up with Ravi (Vishwam Velandy), who seems all cool and well-off, but then reveals he’s a Trump supporter, literally saying he “thinks like a white man, but all the benefits of POC”, and then subjects her to first a shockingly poor taste sexual fantasy about the “hot girl” and the “school shooter,” and that’s before he crosses a real sexual boundary with her.
Jane and Eugene are clearly but uncomfortably reaching the end of their relationship, just before the 2016 US Presidential election, having met during 2012’s election. Rather than directly use this time period as a commentary on the political climate of the time, it’s simply a framing device for how their relationship formed and climaxed.
Writer/director Eugene Kotlyarenko puts his characters (one of which he plays himself) through some emotional paces. Both Jane and Eugene realize separately that they’re motivated to look outside their relationship by the turmoil within it. They also realize that their late-stage development to “an open thing” is a last grasp at keeping the foundation sound. Even at their most reflective in Wobble Palace, Jane and Eugene display a kind of detachment from their reality while the script still grounds them within it: Eugene talks himself into putting on a happy front for his friends when forced to go to a party without Jane, and Jane reflects on how having a female president would be pretty neat while also noting Clinton’s then-stated stance on Russia might mean a level of oppression that would fuel Jane’s art.
That Kotlyarenko’s story doesn’t so much ridicule Jane and Eugene’s cringey choices as much as depict them, warts and all, is to the benefit of the story: Wobble Palace is often funny, uncomfortable (so, so uncomfortable) and melancholy, even within the same scene. These are not characters you necessarily enjoy spending time with. But getting to know them is no less fascinating or engaging.