Saturday, February 25, 2017


(US - 2017)

Written and directed by Macon Blair. Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, David Yow, Jane Levy, Devon Graye, Christine Woods, Robert Longstreet, Gary Anthony Williams, Jason Manuel Olazabal, Derek Mears, Myron Natwick, Lee Eddy, Matt Orduna, Macon Blair. (Unrated, 97 mins)

"Everyone is an asshole" - Ruth Kimke

The winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, the Netflix pickup I DON'T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE (not to be confused with  I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER or Netflix's I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE) is the directing debut of actor Macon Blair, who should be familiar to fans of the acclaimed Jeremy Saulnier films BLUE RUIN (2014) and GREEN ROOM (2016). Blair (the driven but hapless "hero" of BLUE RUIN and the incompetent manager of the skinhead venue in GREEN ROOM) doesn't deviate too far from the formula of his buddy Saulnier, and ANYMORE certainly belongs in that burgeoning indie subgenre depicting the seedy underbelly of rural and back roads America with Saulnier's films and Zeke & Simon Hawkins' flawed but interesting BAD TURN WORSE (2014). Blair's film takes more of a Coen Bros. approach, especially in the early-going, which is filled with dark humor and occasional bits of cringe comedy to around the midpoint, at which time things get more serious and the humor takes on a decidedly macabre bent that wouldn't be out of place in BLOOD SIMPLE and FARGO. Blair wears his love of the Coen Bros. on his sleeve (even the set-up has a shaggy dog-like BIG LEBOWSKI feel to it), so while it doesn't win many points for originality, it has something to say about these troubling times and Blair pulls it off with enough panache that it works beautifully.

Depressed, lonely nurse's assistant Ruth Kimke (a perfectly cast Melanie Lynskey) spends her time moping around the house and reading fantasy novels. She's growing increasingly agitated by the boorish behavior of others, whether it's a huge pickup truck obnoxiously "rolling coal" at a red light, the same neighborhood dog shitting in her yard, people being inconsiderate to others in stores, guys who say "Deez Nuts," and a total stranger (Blair in a cameo) sidling up to her at a bar and spoiling a huge plot twist that's much further into the book she's sitting there reading. Things just get worse when she gets home from work and finds her house has been burglarized, with her laptop, her prescriptions, and her late grandmother's silver dinnerware missing, And with that, Ruth reaches her breaking point, telling her friend Angie (Lee Eddy) that she's tired of "the way people treat each other...they're disgusting and it's all 'mine mine and fuck you,'" adding "Everyone is an asshole." Fed up with lack of interest by the cop assigned to her case, one Det. William Bendix (Gary Anthony Williams), she manages to track down her laptop and cajoles her eccentric neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood)--a would-be martial arts doofus with a rat-tail and a Saxon shirt who's introduced jamming to Pentagram's "Forever My Queen"--into coming along as backup on a mission to retrieve it. But the perps bought it from a flea market, where the skeezy owner Killer Sills (Myron Natwick) has been buying stolen merchandise from Christian Rumack (Devon Graye), a bratty fuck-up from a rich family who's one of a trio of small-time, lowlife criminals that includes ex-con Marshall (Jesus Lizard frontman David Yow) and Dez (Jane Levy of DON'T BREATHE).

Online sleuthing and some good guesswork lead them to the home of Christian's wealthy, obnoxious father Chris Sr. (Robert Longstreet), who's more or less written off his son and refuses to take any responsibility for the shitbag he's become. Marshall has noticed Ruth and Tony following them around and after one major character makes an abrupt and shocking exit, all parties converge at the elder Rumack's house for one of the most inspired and audaciously over-the-top showdowns that the Coen Bros. never concocted, mixing it up with guns, knives, ninja stars, and projectile vomiting. Once it becomes apparent that Ruth and Tony are storming into a world with which they're not prepared to deal, there's some initial trepidation on the part of the viewer over the abrupt shift in tone, but Blair quickly regains control and smooths over the rough spots in the transition. He finds a perfect balance between the more dark-humored elements of Ruth's situation--such as her growing misanthropy and a quest for her belongings not unlike the Dude's pursuit of his peed-on rug in THE BIG LEBOWSKI--and the genuine sense of fear and danger that surrounds Ruth and Tony as they keep tangling with Marshall, whether intentionally or unintentionally. As good as it is, I DON'T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE wouldn't work nearly as well as it does were it not for the pitch-perfect performance by Lynskey, who impressed over 20 years ago with her debut in  Peter Jackson's 1994 film HEAVENLY CREATURES and here creates a character that's every bit as memorable as her Pauline Parker from that film. Lynskey conveys the frustration, the anger, and the sadness in her character while never overdoing it, and while we never get Ruth's backstory, it's not really needed. She's getting by and she finds fleeting enjoyment in little things, but she's a loner who leads a solitary life and feels isolated from a world that she no longer understands. She gets able support from Wood, who gets to play the more goofy sidekick character but, like his co-star, underplays it for the most part. Where Ruth is a mordant, sad sack Dude, Tony is a more stoical but just as furious Walter Sobchak, again drawing comparisons to THE BIG LEBOWSKI and the Coens, albeit in a more low-key fashion (also worth mentioning is HELLO LADIES' Christine Woods, who steals all of her scenes as Chris Sr's booze-swilling second wife). A funny, twisted, and suspenseful film that goes in some genuinely unpredictable directions, I DON'T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE is an impressive debut for Blair, and a perfect showcase for the underrated Lynskey.

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