Parker Posey: “Queen of the Indies”

Parker Posey is an actress who, perhaps like no one else, embodies the spirit of contemporary independent films. This, of course, may be debated, depending on your definition of independent films, what kind of films you like and how you feel about Parker Posey and the movie’s she has been in.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another female star who has been in so many cutting edge and orginal films. For males, I can think of Steve Buscemi, who is another actor whose mere presence in a film practically defines it as “indie.” This brief look at some of my favorite Parker Posey films is by no means comprehensive. Do a search for her name, and you’ll find a surprising number of movies, some not very well known. For someone in her thirties, she already has quite a resume.

Dazed and Confused
is one of the more original and indie type teen comedies. Parker Posey does not have a very large role in it, but it’s one of her earlier appearances (her first? I’m not good at movie trivia and am lazy about looking stuff up, sorry). This was directed by one of my favorite indie directors, Richard Linkletter, who I will soon put up a page about. It’s an episodic, comedy-drama about high school students as they party, hang out, attempt to hook up with the opposite sex, get into trouble and so forth. It has some of the same themes as many standard Hollywood teen movies, but it’s way better than that mostly mindless genre.

I have not seen Waiting For Gufmann or the follow-up, Best In Show, both “mockumentaries,” but I am mentioning them in passing because Posey is in them and they have a cult following.

Party Girl is a fun, light movie that does not pretend to be anything beyond what it’s title suggests. I enjoyed it, but this is one that is mainly for her fans.

House of Yes is a weirdly original, very dark comedy that really showcases Posey’s edgy personality. Here she plays a complete nut case, a woman who spends her life playing at being Jacqueline Kennedy. She brings a hapless boyfriend home to her house, which she shares with her equally deranged brother. This is bizarre, funny and completely original.

Clockwatchers may be my favorite movie Posey has ever been in, though its a little obscure. It’s another comedy-drama, this one about the grim lives of temp workers. Clockwatchers, however, has an unexpected depth that you would not guess at by looking at the posters for it or hearing a brief summary of the plot. It is really a modern piece of existentialism, that looks at the basic alienation of the modern workplace and how it makes people feel worthless and anonymous. It accomplishes all this with a superficially slight plot, and really hones in on the meaning (or lack thereof) of everyday life. Another of my favorite indie directors, Jill Sprecher.

Personal Velocity is another very original indie effort, this one telling separate stories about women in a state of transition. Posey only stars in one of them, but all are well done and thought-provoking, especially compared with standard movie fare.

I will mention You’ve Got Mail even though it’s my *least* favorite Parker Posey film. This is almost an anti-indie film, with values that celebrate 1980s yuppie culture. Then, how indie can a movie starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan be? Even a typically edgy Parker Posey cannot save this from being a basically insipid Hollywood romantic comedy. The title, of course, comes from the annoying (and ungrammatical!) message that is endlessly repeated on America Online to remind subscribers that they have e-mail.

Oh In Ohio is more of a vintage Posey film, one that takes a theme familiar to Hollywood romantic comedies, but treats them in a far more adult and less cliched manner. Posey here is a wife whose frigidity is threatening her marriage to a rather insecure man, a high school biology teacher. Both end up on a quest for fulfillment, sexual and otherwise, that is funny, moving and unapologetically amoral. This is the type of indie film I like for the reason that, at the risk of repeating myself, it doesn’t go off the deep end trying to be arty and original for its own sake, but takes familiar material and puts a new spin on it. I can imagine this very premise being made in a more mainstream way, with a cliched ending that Oh in Ohio has the integrity to avoid.

These are some notable films Parker Posey has been in, with at least a few omissions I’m sure. I look forward to adding to this list as I dig up some more older ones and, hopefully, some new ones as well in the near future.

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