Director: Liz W. Garcia
Written by John Fink on April 26, 2017
Opening with a toast to their health, look-a-like BFFs Catherine (Julia Garner) and Iris (Juno Temple) return to their New England hamlet for one of those few weeks they’ll never forget in Liz W. Garcia’s fairly predictable character study One Percent More Humid. Stuck for the summer in a small town fueled by a local college and blue-collar industries, where everyone drinks at the same bars and eats at the same deli, there’s very little to do besides get drunk, get stoned, and get recklessly involved with two very different kinds of manipulative bad boys as Catherine and Iris cope collectively with a past trauma.
Written and directed by Garcia, whose early career includes writing credits on Dawson’s Creek, One Percent More Humid bares some similarities to that television saga as Catherine and Iris battle their own mistakes while making new ones. Set in an academic hamlet off Annsbury, Iris resides in a state of suspended animation with her brilliant roommate Mamoudzou Athie (one of very few people of color in Annsbury), working on her senior thesis which is to be a series of sad poems exploring trauma. She’s ultimately taken advantage of — or asserts her sexuality over — her thesis advisor Gerald (Alessandro Nivola), an associate professor with seemingly very little teaching responsibilities who exiles himself for one reason or another in New England for the summer. His wife Lisette (Maggie Siff), a New York-based publisher, seems resistant to the idea of traveling up to New England until she decides to make the trek at a narratively convenient time, discovering a poem written on Gerald’s kitchen counter about a women that is clearly not her.
Catherine, now New York City-based, is the kind of upper middle class girl that doesn’t have to worry about working or an internship over the summer; instead she’s free to get drunk down at the local watering hole where she gets involved with Billy (Philip Ettinger), a young man in painful, drunken mourning for reasons that should be apparent to viewers of CW melodramas, but will not be stated here in the interest of retaining narrative turns. The paths forward become, beat by beat, explicitly foreseeable as Catherine and Iris manage the fall-out from these poor decisions and the effect it has on their friendship as the stakes are gradually raised.
If only it could be as simple and carefree as it once was, and to remind themselves of that time they frequently take to skinny dipping in the local pond as if to purify themselves in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. One Percent More Humid features fine performances by an exceptional cast, but one ultimately wasted in a generic story that only has seldom virtues. While the film is a bit more sexually explicit than an episode of Dawson’s Creek, the underlining melodramatic flaws from that kind of familiar episodic series are apparent throughout. Perhaps if you’re experiencing these beats for the first time, as many teenagers did watching Dawson’s Creek, it may feel fresh. However, there’s too many lazy narrative short cuts taken, from weed and pop-infused montages to manipulating its characters, particularly Lisette, not allowing her and her estranged husband Gerald to have a truly serious conversation about their marriage. If only One Perfect More Humid were as emotionally honest as it is sexually frank, the drama might have been a subversive take on the young adult melodrama instead of feeling like a television spin-off.
One Percent More Humid premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.