Written by: Dale Raulerson
Directed by: Macon Blair
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, Devon Graye, David Yow, Jane Levy
There is no doubt that Jeremy Saulnier has made a name for himself after last year’s Green Room and the quieter success of Blue Ruin back in 2013. However, quietly riding the waves of that success has been his childhood friend, Macon Blair, who has acted in all of Saulnier’s films so far and is writing collaboratively on Hold the Dark, projected for a 2018 release. What we have here is Blair’s debut directorial feature, which he has also written, and boy does he ever prove that he is just as strong a creative force as Saulnier has been shown to be.
A comparison not to be made lightly, my impression of I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore was that it took great inspiration from the work of Quentin Tarantino. The quirky but dry mannerisms, explosively prominent and vocalized soundtrack, and the mundane but larger than life weight of every character make it an absolute joy of a film and earn the comparison. Blair has crafted a world that is wholly relatable despite its exaggerations and absurdity; which is in no small part thanks to a phenomenal cast.
Melanie Lynskey plays Ruth, a depressed nurse who decides she’s had enough with the world after having her house robbed, and teams up with her quirky neighbor Tony (played by the charming Elijah Wood) to track the thieves down and get justice. Lynskey plays her depression with quiet strength, going through the motions of the day and trying to cope with life as it comes to her despite her feelings of the pointlessness of it all. She has some very strong moments of emotional dialogue that really tug at the heartstrings, and even as the film progresses and she becomes more assertive and passionate, her kindness and desire for goodness in the world remain genuine. Elijah Wood puts on a similarly endearing performance in a role that can only be compared to Dwight Schrute. He too drips with positive energy and warmth, his anger and acts of violence stemming purely from a desire to better the world. His weirdness is allowed to run full tilt, delivering some of the funniest scenes in the movie, while still managing to make you care about him as a person, not just relegating him to the comedic side kick.
The supporting cast is equally amazing here, with even the smallest characters having drastic and prominent actions and dialogue to bring them to life. No character that appears on screen feels wasted or forgettable as they all play key roles in building the world around them. The villains, played by Devon Graye, David Yow, and Jane Levy are all delightfully quirky and menacing. Their introductions are each memorable, and the human element of their faults makes their acts of violence more believable and engrossing as well. The climactic showdown of the movie, not to mention some surprise turns of the plot prior to it, reminded me of Pulp Fiction in how no character was safe in a world where everyone is armed and out to get something.
The visual effects in the film are great, especially the gore special effects. While it is evident that the movie is building up to a tense and wild conclusion, I was still blown away by how out of hand things got and how graphic they made it to be. It’s shocking and weirdly hilarious all the same when someone meets a grisly demise and another character is projectile vomiting in the background. The camera work is enjoyable throughout the film, with some smart transitions and cuts to add energy and impact to the events, and the settings look real and lived in, from the overgrown and rundown block that our leads live on to the massive and glorious mansion where their travels take them later.
The soundtrack is also impeccably picked and utilized, featuring a huge pool of licensed songs from a variety of genres. The energy of every scene is translated perfectly in the sound, and really hammers in that Tarantino vibe. The original music was also good, with a few shining moments, though certainly less memorable overall under the prominence of the other songs.
If I had anything bad to say at all about the movie, it would be the pacing of the final chase sequence, which felt a little awkward with some rapid cuts and overlapping yelling. The scene takes a while and though the its conclusion was entertaining, it was a littler silly even for the rest of the film. That being said, the finale of the film as a whole is both touching and terribly funny, making up for the weakness of any scenes prior.
I have to say that this is continuing the trend of Netflix exclusive titles with exceedingly long names that quietly appear to knock my socks off (see: I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House), and that is a trend I’d love to see continue. I’m excited to see what more Netflix has procured for us, and I’ll definitely be waiting with bated breath to see what Macon Blair directs next.