Already an early contender for “Most Annoying Title to Type More Than Once 2017”
DIRECTOR: Macon Blair
PRODUCERS: Mette-Marie Katz, Neil Kopp, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani
WRITER: Macon Blair
GENRE: Crime Thriller Dramedy
INITIAL RELEASE: February 24, 2017
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
STARRING: Melanie Lynsky, Elijah Wood, David Yow, Jane Levy, Devon Graye, Christine Woods, Robert Longstreet, Gary Anthony Williams, Lee Eddy, Derek Mears, Jason Manuel Olazabel, Matt Orduna, Michelle Moreno
The world is not a nice place. I think we’re all reminded of that pretty much every day, mainly in the news, though unfortunate happenings can be found pretty much everywhere you choose to look. Sometimes though, what awful things happen to us sometimes isn’t half as bad as how awfully we treat those people. Now, you might not agree with that…but if you do, then have I got the darkly humorous misanthropic 96-minute shot of catharsis for you!
Of course, debut writer/director Blair is probably best-known for being the childhood friend and frequent collaborator of Jeremy Saulnier, of Green Room and Blue Ruin fame, and its difficult not to notice Saulnier’s shadow looming large over I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore in more than a few ways. Blair’s debut picture has many of the same markers as a Saulnier feature: a gritty, and often grimy, realist aesthetic, dark and moody tone, and of course a profoundly misanthropic perspective on human nature. But what sets I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore apart from Saulnier’s work is that its has just a kernel, if only a kernel more, of a sense of optimism and hope that you likely won’t find in Green Room or Blue Ruin.
I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore is also pretty damn funny. It has a very dark sense of humor at times, but nevertheless I Don’t Feel At Home in this World Anymore does deliver a lot of chuckle-worthy scenes or moments- its not always “laugh-out-loud” funny, but its funny in a way I typically find much more satisfying: the result of well-constructed characters interacting with each other in a way that feels appropriate. A great deal of I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore’s strength in this category comes from the strong performances from its two lead actors. Melanie Lynsky (who you might know as Rose from Two and a Half Men) gives a wonderful and varied performance as protagonist Ruth Kimke: reserved and vulnerable while brimming with a feral intensity under the surface. It’s a performance that’s rivaled admirably by Elijah Wood as Tony, Ruth’s weirdo neighbour: a role, which shows off Woods’ surprising comedic chops. Even though he seems to playing the archetypal “crazy sidekick”, Wood’s performance exchanges manic exaggeration for a much quieter and reserved performance that anchors his character’s eccentricities in a more sympathetically realist place than if he simply went for something goofier…and the material is certainly there for that kind of performance.
But none of that really touches on what I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore actually concerns itself with. As I said, I Don’t Feel at Home in this World anymore is as much rumination on our humanity (or lack thereof) that Saulnier’s work often is, but takes a much less nihilistic tack. I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore is ultimately a story about victims, and the way we treat them, especially those victims who are on the fringes of what we’d call “civilized society”. Blair’s script and direction brings to life a view of the world through the perspective of one of its victims beautifully: funny, weird, heart breaking, and cathartic all in equal doses. There are so many beautiful little moments peppered throughout I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore, that wrapped in the film’s ever-present grimy cloak of cynicism become all the more beautiful for their existence in spite of it. The film’s recurring mantra about holding people to a higher standard feels resonant and sadly relevant to so much of what people are currently experiencing in the real world that its difficult not to see I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore as a strong condemnation of our increasing apathy and loss of our humanity.
Blair as a writer also shows a talent for writing strong characters, and its hard not to become immediately invested in both Ruth and Tony. Both of them are the perfectly balanced mixture of kind-hearted weirdo outcast and ever so slightly unhinged. I was particularly impressed with the way they kept subverting my expectations, and it was really fascinating to see that play out on screen. With that said, much of the rest of the cast outside of Ruth and Tony tend to feel a little flat, and are in most cases just one-dimensional dicks. This proves to be a bit of an issue whenever I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore attempts to portray any of these more flatly assholish characters as sympathetic. The motivation is often there, but the emotional engagement isn’t, so these attempts at humanisation often just ring hollow. I will say however that one of these characters gets one of the best villain introductions I’ve seen in a movie for quite a while.
I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore is also, much like all its characters, not perfect when it comes to certain elements of its plot and story. Most notably is the fact that in spite of the first two thirds of the film being really strong, I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore feels like its loses its way a bit in the last third or so from a plotting and story standpoint. Everything prior to that point feels like its building to a very particular thematic catharsis that doesn’t materialize, and ends up being something that feels a bit at odds with what it had been trying to do before. Its not bad, and for all I know this kind of conflict was entirely intentional, but it was oddly frustrating to see play out. Those aren’t the only weird issues that rear up in the films latter third either: it suddenly becomes spectacularly, and almost comically, gory just out of nowhere in a way that didn’t feel particularly earned. Taken with the relative subtly of the rest of I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore, it was incredibly jarring and didn’t seem to have the effect Blair was likely intending.
Still, all in all, I really enjoyed I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore quite a bit. It was, on the whole, funny, sad, (mostly) subtle and reserved, and its story about weirdo outcasts hitting back against their unjust treatment as victims really resonated with me and engaged me a great deal more than I expected to be. The fact that I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore doesn’t take its more misanthropic elements to their most nihilistic extreme is a great boon to it too, injecting with the right amount of levity and hope to make its darker elements work. And that’s all without even mentioning how fantastic both Lynsky and Wood were in the lead roles. I was already a fan of Macon Blair for his performances in Saulnier’s films, but if this is gonna be the standard going forward for his directorial work, then colour me a fan of him for that too.