Poser [Nightstream Review]

If I had to describe Poser in just three words, those words would be "wow," "wow," and "wow." From the opening scene, we can feel the authenticity of the setting – Columbus, Ohio's indie music scene. This isn't manufactured, it's clearly the real deal. First-time feature directors Ori Sergev and Noah Dixon plunge us into this world for a haunting story that examines the intersection of ambition and jealousy. Poser screened at the 2021 Nightstream festival.

Introverted Lennon Gates (Sylvie Mix) has a podcast where she interviews local musicians. Not many people subscribe, but doing it gives her an outlet for her passion. One evening, she's lucky enough to meet Bobbi Kitten, the confident, charismatic singer for a band called Damn the Witch Siren. (Her musical partner, Z Wolf, always performs in a wolf mask.) Lennon is captivated by Bobbi, and Bobbi is flattered by Lennon's attention. The two grow close until Bobbi uncovers some troubling secrets about her new friend.

Poser brilliantly blurs the line between fact and fiction. Bobbi Kitten is a real musician, playing herself. Her band is real, too, as are the other ones Lennon interviews. (Mix is an actress.) Actual club locations are incorporated as well, so that we can feel the Columbus music scene, even if we've never physically been to the city. That kind of verisimilitude gives the story an edge, almost making us forget we're watching a film and feel like we're observing something real taking place before our eyes.

It also makes the central dynamic more engrossing. Lennon is the poser here – a wannabe songwriter who knows she doesn't have a clue how to make it. By hanging out with Bobbi, she tricks herself into thinking that she can succeed through osmosis, as though hanging around talented people will confer talent upon her. She leeches off Bobbi in different ways that shouldn't be spoiled here, trying to prop herself up. Eventually, the behavior becomes obsessive, bordering on desperate. Poser is shrewd in capturing the mindset of people who crave fame and glory, yet don't want to do the actual work to nurture a skill.

Sylvie Mix and Bobbi Kitten are superb together, giving performances that fulfill the story's themes. Both have a natural magnetism that makes us want to watch them. Poser puts the actresses into a story that assumes the audience doesn't need every beat spelled out for them. You won't find any moralizing here, just a smartly observant look at what happens when one woman wants the qualities another woman possesses. In doing that, the movie gets under your skin.

This is easily one of the best indie films of the year.

out of four

Poser is unrated, but contains adult language, drug content, and some violence. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.