Film Journal: Ari Aster & Rachel Brosnahan’s 2014 short film “Basically”

“Basically” is a 2014 short film written and directed by Ari Aster (Hereditary, Midsommar).  It stars Rachel Brosnahan as spoiled millennial TV actress named Shandy Pickles.  The film is a fourteen- minute monologue where Pickles waxes philosophic on God, parents, the industry, life, and out- of- body experiences.

Basically is not a horror film- it’s snappy and funny.  The short does a better job showcasing Brosnahan than Aster.  One can totally understand how Brosnahan landed a role a 1950’s stand- up comedian on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel after seeing her carry this film.

We first see Shandy cussing out her sleeping mom while something that offends Shandy plays on the TV.  Shandy acts like a brat, makes the situation all about her, and starts her monologue by defending her behavior.

“I’m not one of those entitled LA cunts who doesn’t appreciate anything and just goes around biting the hand that feeds her.  My mother’s hand doesn’t feed me, my father’s does.”

She adds, “If the truth hurts, you probably just haven’t heard enough of it.”

Each “scene” consists of one shot.  Pickles stands center frame in some picturesque West Side location, like a pool, her house with arrestingly large doors, or a beach house in Malibu.  She has a new outfit and hairdo in each scene (serious shout-out to the hair person who worked on this, and also to Rachel Brosnahan’s hair).  She spends several scenes describing her 5’4″ artist boyfriend named John who died of leukemia shortly after she dumped him.  In almost every frame, people service Shandy by cleaning her house, bringing her things, or touching her,  but Shandy ignores them or blows them off.  She says this about her situation:

“Anyway, because of the recession we had to move from our bigger house, which really only sucked because it was on the beach but other than that the recession hasn’t really affected my quality of life, even though my more hyperbolic friends would love to complain otherwise.”

“Basically” is a vivid portrait of someone who thinks nothing matters to them, when everything does.  Shandy’s monolgue reveals several traumas:  divorce, her boyfriend’s death, her mother’s near death, and an unlucky parachuter who died in a freak accident at her house.  Normally, I detest when Hollywood makes films about the industry, but in this case, the message fits the medium.  Aster sends up the cluelessly privileged progeny of entertainment people like only an insider could.  No doubt Aster heard people actually saying these clueless things.  But by the end of the short, you actually feel connected to Shandy.  For all Shandy’s self- absorbed babblings, she also says relatable things like this:

“Look at nature!  Have you even actually looked?  It’s AMAZING.  And I don’t know who or what’s responsible for all this amazing stuff, and neither do you.”

And therein lies the thesis:  none of us know shit.


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