I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, 2017.
Written and Directed by Macon Blair
Starring Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, Devon Graye, Jane Levy, Myron Natwick, David Yow, Gary Anthony Williams, Robert Longstreet, Christine Woods, Michelle Moreno, Lee Eddy, and Macon Blair.
When a depressed woman is burglarized, she finds a new sense of purpose by tracking down the thieves alongside her obnoxious neighbor. But they soon find themselves dangerously out of their depth against a pack of degenerate criminals.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore certainly puts a tonal twist on the “yeah, the world is full of assholes, but stop to take a second and smell the roses/appreciate the good” current trend of quirky indie films to come out of Sundance. Written and directed by Macon Blair – who is a frequent acting collaborator with filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier – (last year’s outstanding punk rock neo-Nazi thriller Green Room), he is clearly working from the inspiration and knowledge gained from his partner in crime on those projects.
However, that’s just the last 30 minutes or so of I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, whereas the first two acts are a black comedy mystery featuring some truly idiosyncratic characters. For example, Elijah Wood plays an energetic and charismatic nerdy type named Tony, who is skilled in the art of ninja stars and all sorts of Japanese weaponry. In other words, he’s like the dream sidekick for a scenario of having a friend helping one hunt down seedy burglars. Why can’t the police do it? Apparently, they’re too lazy and require numerous hoops to jump through in order to get anything accomplished.
Tony’s purpose (outside being batshit crazy and hilarious) isn’t just to help a depressed, cynical woman named Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) get back her stolen goods (some of them being sentimental belongings passed on from her beloved grandmother), but to exist as a personality antithesis for how to cope with her essentially nonexistent faith in humanity. He’s upbeat, bearing the eccentricities of a cartoon character, as they bond over similar views regarding the selfishness of society. Even more bizarrely and unexpected is his attempt at helping her potentially find God. As a whole, the film encourages people not to flush whatever hope they have left for humanity down the toilet for good; there’s a strong amount of optimism rupturing through all the nihilism.
Speaking of the film’s tone specifically, it really is wildly all over the map. And I don’t mean a map of the USA, no, I mean a map of the entire Earth; that’s how inconsistent and prone to heavy genre shifting the endeavor is. As previously mentioned, the final act is a violent thriller in the vein of a Jeremy Saulnier flick, with the rest being some wonky fusion of a Coen Brothers and Wes Anderson presentation style. Unfortunately, the hit/miss ratio of jokes is not up to a high percentage to be expected from one of those all-time great filmmakers. Admittedly, there are times when all of the tones come together making for some truly memorable moments (one death is outrageously crafted to delirious delight), whereas sometimes it feels as if all of the desire and ambition to be as quirky and unpredictable as possible work against the experience.
While watching I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore there is frequently an unshakable feeling that the script is veering far too off into the realm of zany characters, to the degree they cease feeling like human characters with relatable qualities. For all the good the movie does with its execution of the friendship between its two central leads (and some fantastic performances to boot) it’s hard to become engaged in the film as a dramatic work of art, which is a flaw, as the film is clearly operating on the concept of mashing up comedy and emotion. It’s actually cringe-inducing anytime the movie drops all subtlety to openly talk about the meaning of life and other such existential contemplations. There’s also the obvious gripe that these characters aren’t very bright for taking matters into their own hands, instead of just working through police procedure, regardless of how slow the process might be.
The burglars of the film also aren’t very interesting and have lifeless generic motives. However, one of them looks like The Real Slim Shady himself Eminem which got a good chuckle out of this critic. Maybe his character was trying to steal enough goods and money to kickstart a rapping career. Joking aside, their presence isn’t felt until the explosion of guns and bloodshed, but even then it’s more about the direction and performances than the characters.
With that said, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is most definitely an intriguing blend of almost every genre. Even if it doesn’t come together perfectly as a revolutionary piece of original filmmaking, the movie is bursting with entertainment value amidst its pleasantly scattershot tone. It’s also easy to appreciate a film where the front and center theme is a call to arms to society demanding everyone to stop being such selfish assholes. Macon Blair’s debut feature has certainly made him a name to keep note of, now also behind the camera.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★