Hollywood gets a lot of flack for giving more chances to new male talent than to women. Accurate as that is, it forgets how you not only need to be male – you need to be male, young, and handsome. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck write themselves a feel-good movie and get Oscars and a career. If you give a remarkable performance but are unremarkable looking... god help you. You're starting off in debt and will need to work your way up to where anyone cuter starts.
Macon Blair had been acting for 14 years before he got the perfect vehicle in Jeremy Saulnier's Blue Ruin. I'm not going to rehash what I wrote about it – you can read my original comment from four years ago. It should have propelled him to... well... working status, at least. But he hits the trifecta: he is plain, pudgy, and understates his performances.
Nevermind that, though. Plain-looking folks need to take matters in their own hands and turn to writing and directing.
Small Crimes, the first of his scripts I saw, was a modern go-fuck-yourself noir aiming for the same naturalistic style of Blue Ruin. His second script, I don't feel at home in this world anymore, is also the first movie he directs himself, and it's a different threat: Blair shows he is capable of more than just moody, gloomy, tortured souls. It still has enough self-destructive behavior to go around. He plays it for chuckles this time, with the movie's world populated entirely by people who have no idea how silly they are.
Melanie Lynskey plays Ruth, who you could place anywhere between junior accounting staff or nursing home assistant, the latter being her actual profession here. It feels like everyone around her is an unsympathetic, unthinking, uncaring jerk. They block her on the street with their huge, honking, fume-spewing trucks; they cut across her in the supermarket; they leave dog shit in her yard – right in front of the “no dog poo” sign.
When someone breaks into her house and steals her medication, her laptop and the silver her grandmother left her, Ruth takes it with resignation – it's just another sign that everyone is terrible to each other. When the cops seem uninterested in her case, she mostly mutters while giving them the benefit of the doubt. But when she finds a clue and the police refuse to send a team to deal with it (because of silly reasons like lacking a search warrant), Ruth teams up with Tom, goes off her meds and on wonky a journey of mild self-empowerment.
Oh yeah, Tom. Elijah Wood is Tom, every nerdy metalhead you've ever encountered, complete with nunchakus and Saxon t-shirts. Tom... I don't know what Tom does for a living. I don't think anybody does. He is professionally self-unaware. Tom is sidekick, would-be love interest, comic relief, and the cause of at least one of the problems plaguing Ruth.
No spoilers. They get that out of the way at their first meeting. As Ruth goes into what is less a rampage and more a reluctant, slow-motion hissy-fit, Tom is a reminder that not everyone who does something that pisses you off is doing it on purpose – some are just unaware. Once she wigs out, though, she doesn't think about that anymore. There are wrongs to be righted.
The movie tries to remind her, but doesn't wag the finger at her as she disregards all the warnings and goes through her amateurish sleuthing and micro-retributions. It sits with us, watching them bumble around, chuckling at them. It prods them into mishaps that start escalating, pushing back with consequences. First, they escape unscathed by sheer luck, but realize neither how lucky they got nor how they look to the other side. Then someone gets a finger snapped, but painkillers help. Then things get serious when a different set of idiots (only more mean-spirited ones) get more actively involved, and she realizes reality doesn't care if you are kinda, mostly, not entirely wrong.
I realize that's not sounding funny enough. It is, if you derive your humor out of escalating facepalms and sudden violence. But it's a movie where you're mostly laughing at the characters, not with them. There are a lot of laughs in it, but you need to be the kind of person who doesn't mind feeling a bit like an asshole.
#maconblair #netflix #comedy #melanielynskey #elijahwood