Release: Friday, February 24, 2017 (Netflix)
Written by: Macon Blair
Directed by: Macon Blair
Starring: Melanie Lynskey; Elijah Wood; David Yow; Jane Levy; Devon Graye; Macon Blair
In his directorial debut Macon Blair shows how much he’s learned from his Qui-Gon Jinn, the one and only Jeremy Saulnier, director of Murder Party, Blue Ruin and Green Room — all of which Blair has had at least a supporting part in. His cryptically titled I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore manifests as another economical, small-crime comedy that saves all its strength for one last, brutal outburst that pulls it right in line with everything Saulnier has done thus far.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is about an idealistic, socially awkward woman named Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) who, after having her home broken into and having some valuable possessions stolen, goes on a moral crusade to find and confront the person(s) responsible, not just for taking her things but for violating her privacy. In the process she exposes herself to an underground world of crime she isn’t exactly prepared to take on.
Ruth is a textbook misanthrope. She doesn’t really believe in the innate goodness of people; rather, the opposite. In fairness, she has plenty of evidence presented to her on a daily basis that confirms those beliefs. And when the police, led by Detective Bendix (Gary Anthony Williams), exhibit comedic levels of resistance to her cause Ruth becomes utterly exasperated. She’s been disillusioned for some time but now she’s moved to action, a psychological tipping point which sets in motion the events of this darkly comedic suburban adventure.
The thirty-something-year-old nurse’s assistant forms an unlikely alliance with her eccentric neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood), a devout Christian who’s really into heavy metal, throwing stars and nunchakus. He agrees to help her track her stolen laptop and come along as back-up in case things get messy. Invariably the hapless gumshoes become the targets of a trio of thugs who suspect them of being, unwittingly or not, on a trail to discovering some larger agenda. When push finally comes to shove and rusty sawed-off shotguns start backfiring, things indeed become messy.
If there is one element that speaks to Blair’s influences more than any other, it’s the violence and how he deploys it — sparingly. The tension builds nicely towards the inevitable final confrontation in a film full of confrontations — the bloody exclamation point on a story fueled by righteous if occasionally misdirected anger. The baddies are deliciously nasty too, and much like they do in a Saulnier picture they serve as mainly incompetent desperados. Led by David Yow’s menacing Marshall and supported by the greasy, wormlike Christian (Devon Graye) and psychotic Dez (Jane Levy), they inject enough danger into the story to make us feel uneasy about Ruth’s increasing obsession with inserting herself into the lives of decidedly terrible people. Not people she’s decided are terrible, but actual, legitimately terrible people.
In fact, the uncanniness is the only reservation I have about I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. Is the film truly original? It’s plenty entertaining — pessimistic, borderline nihilistic black comedy bathed in the blood of Quentin Tarantino (undoubtedly yet another link to Blair’s mentor). This is the kind of confident debut that promises better to come, and yet I’m still compelled to remind people how Ryan Gosling got skewered for liberally borrowing — some say downright thieving — from his inspirations when he delivered Lost River in his directorial debut.
Granted, the yawning abyss that separates those two films manifests itself quite obviously in the quality of the final products and is enough to make my argument invalid. And it’s not like “borrowing liberally” from someone as exciting as Jeremy Saulnier is the worst crime you can commit, especially when imitation is often considered the sincerest form of flattery.
Moral of the Story: The erosion of civility and decency within American society is the topic of conversation in Macon Blair’s directorial debut. There’s something almost therapeutic about the way the film bluntly expresses itself. And really that comes down to great performances, especially from Melanie Lynskey. If this is a film you enjoyed or looks like something you might enjoy, may I also recommend Bobcat Goldthwaite’s God Bless America.
Running Time: 96 mins.
Quoted: “Sometimes I feel like I’m underneath a whirlpool, like I can’t even breathe.”
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Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com