"The world opens its arms to a pretty girl," says the father of the lazy beautiful Cloey, the main character of dreamy new film City Baby. It's true—the world does offer plenty of opportunities to Cloey (played by Cora Benesh, who co-wrote the film with director David Morgan) but the sometimes-model rolls her eyes at all of them, preferring to drink PBR down by the river and feel sorry for herself.
City Baby is a loving portrait of an obnoxious culture. Cloey and her equally genetically blessed pals are the west coast chapter of a creative scene that passes their days with whiskey and texting and drives in cars paid for by parents, all too busy Instagramming to get anything done with their lives.
Like Frances Ha and Lena Dunham's Girls, City Baby revolves around lonely, self-absorbed, urban twenty-something women struggling to figure out what they want in life. While they comfortably own an empowered sexuality as they navigate the romantic gray areas between boyfriends and hook-ups and flirtatious American Apparel photographers, Cloey and her best friend Paige (Jillian Leigh) are inarticulate about who they are, deriving their egos instead from male attention as they snipe at women and seek out sex to feel worthwhile.
"I feel like nobody likes me," whines Cloey at one point. And she's right. Cloey is an irritating mess. She's got some spark in her, but she drinks too much, she eats shitty food, she's mean to her friends, and doesn't know how to use a dryer. Ah, the hard knock life of beautiful people problems.
The film follows Cloey and Paige as they toy with the idea of moving from Portland to New York and instead mostly just loiters around life judging people. Shot all over Portland and with a soundtrack stacked with Northwest bands, City Baby holds up the idea of moving to New York as a symbol of restless locals finally getting ambitious in life. Looking for what's holding her back from loving herself, Cloey pins the blame on her location.
The film could be read a couple ways but for me—a twenty-something Portlander matching Cloey's penchant for dancing and drinking but lacking her bank account—the most loud-and-clear take-away is a pathetic story about class: Cloey's got it easy and she puts it to waste. As Cloey and her friends meander between modeling auditions, pouty conversations, and half-hearted fashion designing, I want to shout at the protagonists, "Just try hard at something, already!"
Watch the trailer for City Baby: