Unlikable female characters are finally starting to to gain some traction in the entertainment world thanks to films like Gone Girl and TV shows like Girls, but Edith Welland (Leah Goldstein, better known as July Talk’s Leah Fay), the struggling Toronto actress at the heart of the independent feature Diamond Tongues, is still a complete revelation.
Like a Canadian Hannah Horvath, with all of the outward politeness and seething passive aggressive undertones that implies, she flounders through most of the film’s 99 minutes while seemingly everyone around her succeeds. The boyfriend she dumped so that she could focus on her career (Adam Gurfinkel) suddenly takes up acting and lands the lead in a film. Her roommate (Leah Wildman) is in rehearsals for a promising new play. Her best friend (Nick Flanagan) doesn’t love his day job as a writer on the inexplicably popular Canadian TV show Dog Husband, but at least he has a steady gig. Even a random acquaintance she runs into on the street has a film premiere coming up.
Edith responds to this by embarking on a listless downward spiral, leaving terrible reviews for her frenemies online, masturbating to fantasies of being massively famous, and generally failing to get her demo reel or her shit together. Shot almost entirely in shaky close-ups that capture the claustrophobic quality of Toronto’s art scene (I live on the outskirts of said scene, I can vouch for the verisimilitude), it’s perversely fascinating to watch, and it’s a testament to filmmakers Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson’s script and Goldstein’s completely un-self-conscious performance that Edith never once tempts the viewer’s pity or schadenfreude.
Although it stumbles a bit at the end with a self-aware redemption that isn’t entirely earned or particularly in character, Diamond Tongues is still a brilliant and realistic portrait of the young artist as a bitter borderline failure.