We all get into ruts – with our relationships, our careers, and our daily lives. We also often want a different life than the one dealt to us – especially if it means financial freedom and a carefree existence. With Pretty Problems, director Kestrin Pantera and screenwriter Michael Tennant explore age-old themes of self-worth, pride, and contentment with amusingly dark humor and idiosyncratic exploration.

In Pretty Problems, thirty-something couple Jack (Michael Tennant) and Lindsay (Britt Rentschler) want a different, more comfortable life. Regrettably, their marriage is on rocky ground, prosperity alludes them, and fulfilling careers sit far out of reach. They are in the quintessential life rut. He’s complacent and she’s envious of the haves. While working at her dead-end job, Lindsey runs into Cat (J.J. Nolan) a carefree, uber-wealthy socialite, who invites her and Jack to a free-for-all getaway. Lindsey, who covets others’ successes, jumps at the opportunity to hobnob with her ostentatious, elegant new pal even though red flags abound.

The party is wild and Pantera and Tennant have created a group of characters worthy of both our pity and awe and not necessarily in the characters we might assume. The obviously clashing lifestyles and personalities reveal the real and deep problems of Lindsay and Jack’s discontented marriage, illuminating them in an entertaining yet sad way as their harsh reality unravels. Their rut appears deeper than most, but not so far removed that we cannot empathize and feel their frustrations. Tennant targets overindulgence and rich culture presenting with unruly and magnificent mayhem – interlinking it with immoderation for witty comic relief. 

The contrasts between Lindsay and Jack’s world and lives with Cat and her filthy rich friends resonate with the audience. Pantera’s pacing is perfect and the comedic moments are refreshing taking the edge off the story’s darker themes. We discover that indeed, money doesn’t buy happiness and that the grass is not always greener. There are lessons to be learned and Pretty Problems works because of its solid cast, clean direction, and well-penned script.

Pretty Problems demonstrates why it is better to look within rather than at the lives of others to fix what is broken. The bleaker aspects of the storyline make for uncomfortable scenes, but this is attributed to the realism of the situations. Fortunately, Pantera places the humor in all the right places, and her cast nails it. I am placing 4 stars in for Pretty Problems.

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