• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

'Worst Person in the World' is every A-lister's new favorite movie. It will soon be yours, too.

·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Dakota Johnson says it "wrecked" her. Bob Odenkirk thinks it's "beautiful." Jamie Lee Curtis calls it "a marvel of a movie."

In a short matter of time, Norwegian romantic comedy "The Worst Person in the World" (in select theaters nationwide and available on video-on-demand) has become the toast of Hollywood, with Judd Apatow, Isabelle Huppert, Nancy Meyers, Colman Domingo, and Paul Thomas Anderson singing its praises. It heads into Sunday with two Oscar nominations, including best international feature film, as well as a surprise nod for best original screenplay.

"Every day stuff happens that I can't believe, like being on the list of the best films of the year by Barack Obama," says star Renate Reinsve, who bears a striking resemblance to Johnson. Before this film, she was never told they look alike, "but I've gotten it a lot after this. It's a very big compliment. She's so beautiful and I think she's so cool."

Oscars tracker: After Lady Gaga’s snub, is best actress Nicole Kidman's to lose?

Julie "is so complex and has so many layers," actress Renate Reinsve says of her "Worst Person in the World" character.
Julie "is so complex and has so many layers," actress Renate Reinsve says of her "Worst Person in the World" character.

"Worst Person" is directed by Danish-born filmmaker Joachim Trier ("Reprise"), and follows a young woman named Julie (Reinsve) on the brink of 30 as she navigates love, family and career uncertainty. Much of the film's drama comes from her long-term relationship with comic-book artist Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), which implodes after she meets a strapping barista named Eivind (Herbert Nordrum) at a party.

But unlike many major studio rom-coms, the film doesn't hinge on what side of the love triangle Julie ends up on. Rather, in the movie's emotional last half hour, Julie is forced to confront who she is and what she wants outside of romantic entanglements, as a close friend's illness puts her long-held ambitions of becoming a photographer into focus.

Co-written with Eskil Vogt, the film stems "from our love for the romantic comedy and trying to do a modern version of that, which didn't feel like, 'Oh, a woman has to find a man to have a good life,'" Trier says.

Snubbed! Ben Affleck, Jennifer Hudson, Lady Gaga, Leonardo DiCaprio miss out on Oscar nominations

Eivind (Herbert Nordrum, left) and Julie (Renate Reinsve) do everything but cheat on their partners during a titillating first meeting.
Eivind (Herbert Nordrum, left) and Julie (Renate Reinsve) do everything but cheat on their partners during a titillating first meeting.

The movie's title is not supposed to be taken at face value. In fact, it's a fairly common phrase in Norway.

"It's a self-deprecating figure of speech, like, 'Oh, I'm the worst person in the world,'" Trier says. "Julie feels that she has this great potential, and she's failing professionally and in her love life and not able to live up to this intense expectation of success."

Before "Worst Person," Reinsve primarily worked in theater and had a bit role in Trier's 2011 drama "Oslo, August 31st." After growing frustration with the industry and a lack of interesting parts for women, she decided to quit acting just before Trier called to offer her the film. She had planned to go to school to become a carpenter – a newfound passion of hers after renovating her house.

"I really enjoy it, it's so concrete," Reinsve says of woodworking. "It's the opposite of acting; it's not as soul-searching. Acting can be quite painful at times."

More: You're late on the Oscar race. It's OK. Watch these movies tonight.

Julie (Renate Reinsve, left) and Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie) pause to reflect after a charged conversation about their relationship.
Julie (Renate Reinsve, left) and Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie) pause to reflect after a charged conversation about their relationship.

Reinsve, 34, who won best actress at last summer's Cannes Film Festival for her performance, most admired Julie's contradictions while reading the script for the first time.

"I felt really seen by someone writing a character who was beautiful and smart and cool, but also ugly," Reinsve says. "She had a lot of shame, and couldn't decide what to do or who to be with. And she goes on this journey of being confronted with herself, and on the other side, she learns to accept herself in a bigger degree. It doesn't really matter what choices she makes – it matters that she makes them from the right place."

It was important for Trier to make the men in Julie's life equally complex. Successful and older, Aksel is at times manipulative and controlling of Julie, pressuring her to start a family. But he's also patient and understanding of her whims, and sticks up for her against her neglectful father (Vidar Sandem).

"He feels sorry for her being self-sabotaging in an ongoing search for identity, and he genuinely tries to help her in that search," says Danielsen Lie, 43. "Early in the relationship, she used him to confirm her identity. But later, she's annoyed with him and doesn't feel free."

In one of the film's most memorable scenes, time stands still as Julie (Renate Reinsve) runs through the city.
In one of the film's most memorable scenes, time stands still as Julie (Renate Reinsve) runs through the city.

Midway through the film, just before Julie confronts Aksel about potentially breaking up, Trier ingeniously "stops time" in a stunning sequence where Julie runs through the streets of Oslo to find Eivind. Cars, pedestrians and cyclists are all frozen in place – an effect that was achieved mostly practically. The scene took weeks to choreograph and shoot with dozens of extras – and even some passersby who decided to participate unprompted.

"It was so fun to do it old school, not having any special effects," Reinsve says. "There's that scene from the poster where I run up and down the street, and we saw people had joined in when we came back (to shoot the next take). We were like, 'There are more people standing still now!'"

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Oscar-nominated 'Worst Person in the World' is the film A-listers love