The feature debut of young Austrian director Jessica Hausner, Lovely Rita is a coolly assured and darkly amusing exploration of adolescent loneliness. Its knack for veering into tragedy without descending into histrionics has even drawn comparisons with the work of Michael Haneke.
The title character (Barbara Osika) is a withdrawn teenager growing up in an unidentified Austrian town. Ostracized by her Catholic school classmates, and frequently locked in her bedroom as punishment by her strict parents, Rita spends her days lying and playing truant. Having unsuccessfully tried to lose her virginity to an asthmatic younger boy (Christoph Bauer), she then turns her attentions to a local bus driver (Petr Fiala)...
Shot on digital video with a non-professional cast, Lovely Rita intelligently conveys the stifling nature of Rita's home and educational environments, and benefits from refusing to spell out character motivations. Newcomer Osika's subtle and often wordless central performance, meanwhile, seals the film's success.
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