You may not realize there is a whole contingent of successful young writers, actors, and filmmakers who are Georgetown graduates. They include John Mulaney, Nick Kroll, Jonathon Nolan, and Mike Birbiglia. Many of the Hoyas were influenced by John Glavin, a screenwriting professor whose classes are famously difficult. The most interesting filmmaker to emerge from this school, however, is Brit Marling. Young and striking, she embarked on an acting career, was dissatisfied with the caliber of acting roles she was offered, so she and her partner Zal Batmanglij decided to make their own films. The best of the bunch is The East, a thriller where Marling plays a corporate spy who ingratiates herself with a faction of left-wing environmental terrorists.
Most of the film is not set in D.C., but the early scenes with Marling and her boss (Patricia Clarkson) have a steely authenticity to them precisely because of their D.C. setting. Clarkson’s office is in Georgetown, overlooking the Potomac, and she speaks in the kind of impersonal shorthand that is often mistaken with strong leadership. Marling worked at Goldman Sachs prior to her movie career, and that steely interaction – between two driven women – hits an air of steel corporate authenticity that makes the rest of the film all the more plausible (Marling’s character also leaves her boyfriend, the sort of career-minded choice that will make type-A D.C. types nod in appreciation). The East takes place all over the mid-Atlantic, everywhere from the hippie forest hideouts to swanky mansions, but getting one city right is what the rest of the film genuinely effective.