I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.

Release: Friday, February 24, 2017 (Netflix)

[Netflix]

Written by: Macon Blair

Directed by: 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.

Recommendation: 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.

Rated: NR

Running Time: 96 mins.

Quoted: “Sometimes I feel like I’m underneath a whirlpool, like I can’t even breathe.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com 

Green Room

'Green Room' movie poster

Release: Friday, April 29, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Jeremy Saulnier

Directed by: Jeremy Saulnier

Jeremy Saulnier continues to polish the edges on his unique brand of filmmaking in 2016. Green Room is electrifying. It’s intense. It’s bloody. It’s raw. It’s wrong. But man, is it watchable. And I’m liking the theme here: last time it was Blue Ruin . . . now it’s Green Room. What’s next, Red Rum? No, but seriously. So far all of his movies have involved or in some way been built around murders, and murders that go horribly awry.

His sophomore effort, the mysterious crime drama Blue Ruin, afforded the young up-and-comer a much larger and more intrigued audience following his 2007 crash landing with Murder Party. So it wasn’t really any secret to those whose allegiances had already been established that his next offering would be bloody as well. All the same, his third feature is still likely to catch everyone off-guard as it offers a wicked(ly original) premise, and a performance from Patrick Stewart so cold Saulnier’s begging to be trashed by every filmgoer expecting Professor X’s world-weary wisdom to offer our mortally endangered musicians some hope.

Then again, Saulnier’s just as likely to be venerated by anyone looking for the next great genre film, as Green Room seduces with one gut-wrenching twist after another, offering a thrill ride that’s difficult not to watch, even despite the cruelty and the gore. Down-on-their-luck punk band The Ain’t Rights are on the last leg of a failing tour that very well could spell the end of the band after the latest stint at a decrepit restaurant half-heartedly thanks them with a measly sum of chump change. It’s gotten to the point where they’re having to siphon gas from random cars they find just so they can make it from venue to venue, and they’ve been subsisting on a steady diet of rice and beans. Rice and beans and fucking attitude, man.

In a small Portland suburb, a mohawk-wearing rocker named Tad (David W. Thompson) hooks them up with a gig at a third-rate club in the backwoods of god-knows-where Oregon, a snake pit filled with neo-Nazis, leather-clad hooligans and possible future victims of dominatrixes, all expecting the next sonic boom of bad music to throw them right back into their nightly frenzy. Even though they tout themselves as an angry clash of misfits, this lion’s den ain’t right for The Ain’t Rights, but they do need the money. So they play a set and while they almost get booed off the stage they make it through without actually being mobbed, so that’s a good thing.

An already uncomfortable situation turns nightmarish when they — Pat (Anton Yelchin), Reece (Joe Cole), Tiger (Callum Turner) and Sam (Alia Shawkat) — are preparing to leave only to stumble upon the aftermath of a murder backstage. What ensues is a series of increasingly dire cover-ups, all orchestrated by the ruthless skinhead Darcy (Stewart), the proprietor of this hateful little establishment. He has one goal: to pin the death of a random groupie named Emily on the visiting band so he and his fellow Nazi sympathizers can carry on as they were. So he traps them in the back with Big Justin (Eric Edelstein) and Amber (Imogen Poots), a friend of Emily. If they have any hope of surviving, it lies in the band’s ability to outwit the horde of haters.

Green Room, complete with an inspired cast, a script provocatively grounded in reality, and a deeply cerebral soundtrack that evokes mood á la Nicolas Winding-Refn’s Drive, functions best as a slash-’em-up horror. Many of the deaths are played up for shock value — getting eaten alive by dogs works wonders in that regard. But this is every bit as compelling as a psychological mystery thriller given the perpetual shift in perspective as cameras rove in and out of the darkened facility, keeping track of both parties as one struggles to keep things under wraps and the other desperate to survive. It’s kinda obvious who we should be rooting for, but there’s also something darkly compelling about Darcy’s intelligence.

Saulnier keeps the suspense just this side of bearable as he powers toward a brutal final confrontation that somehow manages to match the intensity of everything that has preceded it. Implementing sparse dialogue, haunting and often claustrophobic shots of the surrounding wilderness, and, absent the trumpets of another bombastic score designed to signal that the movie is almost over, the standoff might be the very reason to see Green Room. But given everything that Patrick Stewart brings to the table, and the story’s grounded, simplistic composition, there are many elements supporting the theory that it won’t be long before Saulnier becomes a household name. He is a gifted filmmaker and the power that Green Room projects is proof of that.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 7.27.52 PM

Recommendation: Bold, bloody, brutal. Jeremy Saulnier steps up the violence in this delightfully trashy backwoods horror-thriller hybrid that makes his previous effort look like a pleasant bedtime story. Fans of Patrick Stewart, be prepared for a wild ride. While others, fans of Saulnier perhaps, buckle in for the ride you’re expecting. He’s done it again.

Rated: R

Running Time: 94 mins.

Quoted: “I can’t die here with you.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

Blue Ruin

Release: Friday, April 25, 2014 (limited)

[Netflix]

Written by: Jeremy Saulnier

Directed by: Jeremy Saulnier

From the opening shot silence dominates, ominously foreshadowing a journey fraught with tension and dread. It doesn’t take long to realize that something is wrong, to feel the disconnect between a vagabond and his surroundings. Macon Blair’s Dwight is floating through existence, living out of his car and presumably without a job. The comforts of our typical daily lives feel far out of reach even though they are quite literally right in front of him. Despite his disheveled appearance Dwight seems functional, making use of a few odds and ends to help him get through another day of living on the streets. But he’s clearly a broken man, a scruffy beard and unkempt hair and meals derived from what he can scrape out of trash cans being the most telling.

For at least the opening 20 minutes he remains enigmatic, inspiring an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue. Possibly a bit of frustration too — who is this guy? Empathy towards the homeless isn’t a necessity — if you’re not empathetic I can’t say I blame you as it seems more often than not their plights are derived from a long series of poor life choices — but in this case the issue doesn’t seem to be a history of drug and alcohol abuse. Drama begins in earnest when Dwight receives the news that the man responsible for the murder of both his parents is being released from prison. A policewoman asks him to come into the station, insisting that it’d be better for him to hear this in a safe place rather than being alone on the streets and finding out in the local paper.

Unfortunately the catalyst for the blood-splattering that is to come is less dependent upon the way in which he receives the information as it does upon how he will choose to respond to it.

Given the thrill of the discovery, it’s difficult to talk plot without ruining much of the experience so I vote instead we talk about how good Blair is in the lead. Um, yeah. He’s good. Evoking an emotional instability that borders on madness, Dwight comes across as a surprisingly threatening man even though his ineptitude at handling violent situations may say otherwise. That he’s out of his depth on more than a few occasions is a brilliant manifestation of Blair’s physical performance. This is a role that, rather than relying on extensive dialogue, depends upon how his countenance reflects a steadily more desperate reality. Such change is more often than not subtle but by the end the disparity is noted. It’s an incredible performance, elevating Blue Ruin well above your average revenge tale.

As good as Blair is, however, Jeremy Saulnier might just outdo him. He isn’t just responsible for allowing his lead to flourish under intelligent writing and precise directing, he’s painting a gorgeous backdrop through crisp, colorful cinematography that ironically romanticizes the lush landscape of Virginia, particularly Dwight’s hometown, a sleepy hollow interrupted by violence. Thickly forested hills serve as creative conceals for confrontations that don’t necessarily play out the way you might expect. In this film, Virginia is not for lovers; it is for survivors. It is for men who stand very little to lose.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, and in Saulnier’s minimalist portraiture of a life gone awry it arrives upon a frozen plate.

Recommendation: Blue Ruin is a great example of minimalist storytelling. Dialogue-lite, it’s far more concerned with body language and subtle visual clues to keep viewers constantly engaged. The violence it does feature is rather vivid but it, too, is limited to moments that tend to be extremely effective. I loved this film, but I can see others having a problem with its deliberate build-up. It’s not heavy on action but it is heavy on great acting and beautiful cinematography. Give it a shot sometime. E-hem. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 90 mins.

Quoted: “I would forgive you if you were crazy. But you’re not. You’re weak.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com