Claire (Micaela Wittman) is a spoiled rich girl living a privileged life in Los Angeles, getting by one blessed C-average semester at a time. She isn’t sure what her next steps are. Maybe grad school? That kind of concrete thinking ahead isn’t really Claire’s style and doesn’t have to be. “My father only supports me financially,” she tells a friend earnestly, insisting that such support isn’t real support. Claire isn’t an airhead. She has plenty going on up there. It’s just that little of it is particularly useful for getting through the world. Deep down, she knows it. So she sets out to make a documentary about finding enlightenment, seeking it through New Age sources, ignorant attempts at Eastern spiritualism and, eventually, a little chemical enhancement.
Clairevoyant is an 80-minute episodically structured mockumentary about Claire’s journey, which Wittman co-wrote and co-directed with Arthur De Larroche. It feels very improvisational, sometimes to its detriment. Wittman herself is quite funny and really kills the “naïve socialite” archetype, particularly when she describes the truths of her world. “Money ‘literally’ grows on trees,” she argues to her cameraman when he asks if giving up her material comforts would perhaps help her discover meaning, “I can’t be poor because I’m rich.”
There are some silly adventures in which Claire asks ignorant questions of much more intelligent people. She never really learns anything from her encounters and seems to take the wrong lesson from every person she meets. For instance, she wants to learn about Tibetan Buddhism, so she goes to … an Indian casino. Much of her quest is spent fundamentally misunderstanding the cultures and belief systems she’s hoping to embrace. For what it’s worth, Claire is the joke here. There’s never a point in time where Wittman and De Larroche thoughtlessly lampoon another culture, although many of the people she meets are happy to keep our heroine running in expensive circles for their pearls of wisdom.
However, because Claire is the joke in almost each and every scene, the 80-minute running time starts to quickly drag. The film is structured like a 2000s sitcom, combining faux interviews and “talking head”-style running commentary by Claire, where she misunderstands everything she experienced. Wealthy white women who appropriate other cultures to cure their comfortable boredom are pretty low-hanging satirical fruit, and it isn’t until Claire gives up pestering other people for their own beliefs in favor of trying drugs that the tone of the comedy changes. The last bit — a psychedelic sequence — is pretty creative and lets Wittman do something a little different with her performance.
Although the end result doesn’t entirely work, you can appreciate what Wittman and De Larroche were going for; her performance in particular is a standout. Clairevoyant ends on a note of self-determination, of finding your own meaning, and it’s apparent that the creative team certainly did in the process of making their film.