Macon Blair doesn’t personally show up much in his writing/directing debut I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore. — he has more screen time in The Florida Project, probably — but you can feel his jittery, cold-sweat presence throughout.
Like quirk-revenge drama Blue Ruin and neo-Nazi punk thriller Green Room, his breakout collaborations with director Jeremy Saulnier, his I Don’t Feel At Home is positioned on the margins of respectable society, steadily gaining momentum as small decisions move toward inevitable, sudden violence. Blair’s secret weapon here, though, is a healthy dose of absurdist humor to go along with the brutality.
I Don’t Feel At Home effectively functions as a distaff Falling Down, with Michael Douglas’ had-it-up-to-here embodiment of tortured white masculinity subverted. Instead, we get Ruth (Melanie Lynskey), an aggressively normal suburban lady just trying to make it through the day. Everyone, she notes, is “an asshole … and dildoes.” Hard to disagree. They cut in line at the supermarket. They don’t pick up their dog’s poop. Blair casts himself as a rando at the bar who casually spoils the ending of the book she’s reading, before blithely bidding her good day. These fucking people.
When her house gets robbed and the cops shrug it off, she flips into vigilante mode. But unlike a Douglas, she doesn’t immediately turn to violent solo vengeance. On the contrary, she enlists the help of another oddball on the block (Elijah Wood, all rat-tail, cut-off metal t-shirts, and dubious nunchaku skills) to get her shit back. They make for a decidedly off-brand superhero duo, and their attempts at justice, which sometimes fumble their way into success, are played for laughs.
Until, of course, they’re not. Lynskey and Wood are both ideal in their roles, pairing legitimate outrage at minor social trangressions with a dawning awareness that maybe, just maybe they’re not the best candidates to plunge into the criminal underworld and demand everyone be nicer in general.
Blair holds on to both the ludicrous and deadly serious tones admirably for most of I Don’t Feel At Home, though he’s set himself a nearly impossible task. The final, bloody set-pieces unleash a kind of free-floating queasiness that undermines some of the comic flourishes that came before, but this is a writer and director who certainly knows how to play in that particular sandbox.
If the whole thing doesn’t exactly cohere, it’s not for lack of trying, and I Don’t Feel At Home has plenty to recommend it for fans of grimy genre and Sundance quirk alike.
(Rick – Streaming on Netflix)
It seems that the romantic comedy is always on the verge of dying, and so always finding itself resuscitated by an unlikely contender. This year, The Big Sick is its salvation, which even goes so far as to include an actual confrontation with death as its romantic premise.
And it works. So well. Comedian Kumail Nanjiani stars as, well, Kumail, and co-wrote the film with real-life spouse Emily V. Gordon, the two concocting a sort of couple’s autobiography that plays much better than it sounds. Largely elevating itself above the inherent preciousness and pitfalls of pathos, The Big Sick finds an honest approach to family, culture, and our fraught attempts to connect. Zoe Kazan is great as Emily, but Ray Romano and Holly Hunter mostly steal the show as her parents, with whom Kumail ends up spending a lot of time.
Ultimately, this is just a nice film, both generous and forgiving to its ensemble for their foibles, touching and laced with unexpectedly acidic barbs. It feels very of-the-moment while still planting its feet firmly in the genre. It is, as they say, a good time at the movies.
(Rick – Streaming on Amazon Prime)
Watching Kieslowski’s earlier films—before, let’s say, Dekalog—is a peculiar experience. It’s always easy to spend the runtime trying to pick out points that gesture at what’s to come, but it’s particularly easy with him. It’s like watching someone shake off, in real time, his documentary past, the “fright of real tears” that put him on the road to fiction filmmaking.
Blind Chance is a fascinating movie on its own, but as a frozen moment of Kieslowski working out the fractal possibilities of fiction as opposed to the simple given reality of documentaries, it’s a particularly fascinating testament. (Pair it with Run Lola Run, Sliding Doors, and the “Sliding Frasiers” episode of Frasier—season 8, episode 13—for a very peculiar night.)
(Liz – Streaming on Filmstruck)
Although I saw it years ago on its release, I don’t particularly remember Man on the Moon, Milos Forman‘s portrait of anti-comedy pioneer Andy Kaufman. If anything, the title seems likelier to conjure up the R.E.M. song in my brain.
This is odd, since that film coincided with a Kaufman obsession on my part and featured a stacked, oddball cast (Jim Carrey in the lead, of course, plus Danny Devito, Paul Giamatti, and, er, Courtney Love). For whatever reason, it didn’t stick.
Jim & Andy makes a strong case to revisit it. Focusing on the rather elaborate, Method-esque lengths its lead went to embody his muse(s), the doc is split between on-set footage and current reminiscences from Carrey — some of which are legitimately fascinating, many of which swirl upwards in a tornado of woo-woo shit. But there’s no doubting Carrey’s sincerity, and the film situates this particular role within the context of his career in ways I hadn’t appreciated.
There are larger questions that go frustratingly unasked and unanswered here, particularly at a moment when issues of workplace harassment and misconduct dominate the news cycle. How far is too far? We can all agree that Jared Leto’s inane Joker stunts can’t be justified, but what about Carrey’s, particularly in his Carrey-as-Kaufman-as-Tony Clifton personae? Jim & Andy doesn’t dive into the ethics.
In fact, Jim & Andy often pulls back at the most interesting moments, and seems more content to marvel at the lunacy of the whole endeavor than to really wrestle (natch) with its implications and consequences. But it does reveal a lot about Carrey himself, and its hall-of-mirrors structure is often rewarding.
(Rick – Streaming on Netflix)
I am nowhere near as up on short films as my buddy Rick is (too many fall into the same trap as post-war short stories — “constructed mousetrap-like to supply, at the finish, a tiny insight typically having to do with innocence violated,” in Barthelme’s wonderful phrase), but all of Hollis Frampton’s are close to my heart, and none are closer than (nostalgia).
Over the course of 36 minutes, Frampton describes a photograph he took and then sets it on a stove burner to, well, burn. As he describes the next one, laconically and brilliantly, we watch the previous one crumple into a shiny black husk. It’s incredibly moving, somewhere between art film and NPR.
(Liz – Streaming on Filmstruck)