As a Columbus “native” who has not seen much of the city, two must-sees were recommended to me by a co-worker: Gateway Film Center and the locally made, independent film that features much of the cityscape I have been missing out on.
When making a film with a budget you’d prefer to keep at zero, you have to get creative to evoke the same emotion of a well-funded movie. Poser does just that. Directed by two Denison University grads, Ori Segev and Noah Dixon, Poser is both directors’ feature debut. Shot in Ohio, the film follows Lennon (Sylvie Mix), a downtown Columbus-based, Gen Z hipster and aspiring music producer.
At the start of the film, Lennon wanders around life aimlessly. When not serving at her day job, she sets out to people-watch rather than make friends. She records sounds with her cell phone, ranging from mundane city ambiance to strangers’ conversations, (most of whom are unaware that they are being observed). When she returns home, Lennon plays her voice memos back, records them on cassettes, and labels them thoroughly in an ever-growing collection. Because, as any hipster would know, “analog just sounds better."
In an attempt to tackle the underground music scene of the city head-on, Lennon starts a podcast. That decision begets the bulk of the film’s charm: all of the artists that Lennon interviews are real-life Columbus musicians.
Eventually, she runs into the eccentric Bobbi Kitten (a fictionalized version of the singer). After urging Lennon to play a song from her journal, Bobbi takes Lennon under her wing. And à la Last Night in Soho (2021) which was coincidentally released the same year, Lennon begins to adopt Bobbi’s mannerisms and quirks which she believes to be a productive means to leave her comfort zone.
The world-building is one of the film’s strengths. Because Poser’s world is heavily rooted in the genuine music scene in central Ohio, there is a lot of room for area-specific details. The film toes the line between poking fun at the creators because of their lack of “credibility” and expressing admiration for their unapologetic artisanship. During the film’s screening, I was begging for the movie to pick a side but later realized that such inconclusiveness might have been a reflection of the fickle protagonist.
If the title didn’t convince you, the opening scene makes it clear that, although Lennon seems harmless (and a bit pathetic), she is not easy to root for due to her intense desire to be “in” with her peers. But I could not help but want Lennon to grow into herself because she reminds me of the poser I once was (and still probably am). Throughout the film, I grappled with whether she deserved a sincere payoff, regardless of her relatability.
On a technical level, Segev and Dixon check all the boxes in my book. The pensive score, bopping soundtrack, and gritty sound design kept me on the edge of my seat with a contemplative fist placed under my chin, even when the pace would take a long, lulling turn. It is reassuring, on multiple levels, when a movie about music has an expert use of sound.
In mentioning Last Night in Soho, I deliver a sly hint that Poser is not the most original story out there. There are plenty of quiet-girl-waiting-for-a-coming-of-age-to-hit-her (who becomes obsessed with a cooler, more popular foil) arcs in the sea. But that is also what I appreciate most about Poser. Although it does not try to win you over with a groundbreaking story, it captivates with its authentic setting, strong performances by Mix and Bobbi Kitten, and a keen understanding of its psychological genre with an effective comedic tone layered in.
If you get the chance, watch it. It’s an under-90-minute gem made by talented indie filmmakers. And if they make it big (really big, seeing as it’s already made a splash at Tribeca Film Festival), then you can say that you knew Segev and Dixon before they were cool. Bragging rights for the hipster poser we are all at heart.
Visit https://poser.oscilloscope.net/ to find a showing (possibly) near you.