Being the story of how an artist’s presumed death launches his work from obscurity to belated celebrity, I thought that Posthumous offered an interesting premise and some solid ground to explore important questions about success in the art world. However, it turned out to be slightly disappointing.
Equally disappointing is when the movie veers into the lackluster mold of a typical romantic comedy. Liam, pretending to be his own brother, starts to fall in love with a reporter (Brit Marling) making a story about his deceased self—although she immediately realizes the truth and decides not to let him know. In their conversations, there are brief mentions of questions that could have made the story deliver, like the definition of art and its value, the difference between a real artist and a sell-out, or whether an artist should strive for greatness or happiness. However, any time it feels like something meaningful or at least thoughtful is about to be explored, we are given a pop philosophy line or the conversation just ends in an attempt of a romantic moment.
The screening was followed by a Q&A with writer and director Lulu Wang, but she only made matters (slightly) worse. For a story that should rely somewhat heavily on art theory, there are three admissions which severely affect the movie, even in hindsight. First: Liam’s “figurative” art, which is supposed to represent pure, abstracted artistic creation, was in fact made by the production design team at the last minute—and it shows. Second: The only real example of what Liam considers to be true art is by an anonymous street artist dubbed Linda’s Ex, who made illustrations asking for a girl named Linda to “take him back” and thus sparked a large public reaction. In real life, the “art”, to Wang’s disappointment, turned out to be a hoax by a graphic designer, which kind of defeats the whole point. And lastly, she claims to have written the story with the purpose of not making another conventional romantic comedy, in which regard it fails miserably.
All in all, Posthumous is a respectable directorial debut, with decent performances, especially by Brit Marling—and with the exception of Huston. I imagine that it could be enjoyable, if you know what to expect: another unremarkable rom-com with a superficial, almost-interesting story.