Review: AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION OF HER BEAUTY Connects On A Visceral, Emotional Level

J Hurtado, Contributing Writer

Terence Nance's An Oversimplification of Her Beauty teeters precariously on the border between unbearably pretentious and brazenly original.

With a film as potentially divisive as this one, I often fall on the side of condemnation, branding pretentious films as full of shit and guilty of self-indulgent fart smelling. However, thankfully, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty never tips into that nebulous wasteland of the 'too artsy for it's own good.' The film's saving grace is very simple: it all hits home. Behind the circular timeline, repetitive voice-over, and avant garde narrative devices, there is truth, which goes a long way.

The film begins with several minutes of footage from Nance's short subject How Would You Feel?, which traces his relationship with a romantic interest. The short starts at the end, and explores all of the little things that go into creating his insecurities, as well as the genesis and evolution of the relationship, such as it is. Nance does an incredible job of mapping his own insecurities and exploring insights into his own fucked up expectations.

Then it stops.

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is a mix/re-edit of How Would You Feel? with new material exploring Nance's experience with the film and with his own life in the several years in between. Nance pulls a High Fidelity, going back through several failed relationships/missed connections to discover what went wrong with each of them. Some are worth exploring, some not so much, but the manner in which he recounts these stories is never less than visually engaging as he shows remarkable openness to sharing his own pain and shortcomings.

If the film were simply this, what sounds like a navel-gazing, "why me?" fest, it would be rotten and I would hate it. The film's visual and aural style, as well as exciting and intuitive editing, turns even the less engaging narrative moments into wild flights of imagination, punctuated by brilliant visualizations of the mind's devolution into self-pity. The film tackles its subject not so much with logic, but with heart and emotion, bringing the audience along on Nance's journey toward understanding, or at least acceptance, of his predicament.

This is a film that is unlikely to get any kind of theatrical distribution. The lack of a straight narrative combined with the occasionally abrasive editing style and frequent sojourns into the realm of the outre render it poor sustenance for all but the heartiest of cinematic souls. This is definitely experimental cinema, and if that's your bag, there's a lot to love here, if not, you might want to steer clear. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is the rare film that is able to connect on a visceral, emotional level without the benefit of a traditional story. It is a beautiful film, and one that will stay with you long after its ending.


Review originally published during the Dallas International Film Festival in April 2012. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty opens in limited release in the U.S. on Friday, April 26. Visit the official site for more information.

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  • dustin chang

    I'm just pissed that this film is not getting more coverage. It comes out in the shittiest theater in NY- Cinema Village probably for a week run or two at the most. Jay-Z put his name on it as soon as he saw it, but where are you mr. Bigshot? Why not promoting this movie like crazy?

    Terence is an amazingly talented individual and an multi-talented artist who will be as big as Michel Gondry if he's given a chance. Please see this film if it rolls around your town. You won't regret it.

  • Dylan/Variance

    Hi. I'm the one distributing it. It's also playing in NYC at Lincoln Center, one of the premiere arthouses in the city (and Cinema Village is a rare theater that will take a chance on a experimental films without asking us to place $50,000 in print advertising that we don't have and doesn't help anyway- so gotta cut them some slack). It's also playing twenty other cities- to start. And then it hits Canada, and the filmmakers get the proceeds, not some nameless company.

    Lots of folks helping out. Now, is anyone gonna throw a million dollars at us so we can promote it on TV? No. And that's ok. I'm with you on wanting more coverage, but then again, we're commenting on an article that is literally coverage for the film, so something's working, now?

    Terence is a MASSIVE talent and he's going to be around for years to come. If you want to help, show some love and tell all your NYC not to miss it- otherwise, yeah, it'll be around a week or two, like 90% of all indie films are.

  • J Hurtado

    As the writer of this review I completely agree with both of you, however, I want to step and give Variance HUGE props for taking a chance on this film. It's not an easy one to catogorize and even less simple to market, yet is was on my top ten of last year and remains one of the most affecting cinematic experiences of my life. I'm honestly surprised anyone picked it up. I'll throw as much of my sway behind this as I can. Definitely one to experience if you are a human being with emotions.

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