Part screwball comedy, part violent crime movie, I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is an often hilarious strong debut by Macon Blair
I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore can pretty much be summed up in its whimsical title. It leans on the worst of our society – an ozone killing car, another shooting on the news — while observing it from a sarcastic, cynical viewpoint in our lead character, Ruth (Malanie Lynskey). The movie can really be boiled down to two things: a buddy comedy with elements of Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room. That’s not surprising considering the film’s writer/director Macon Blair has starred in all three of Saulnier’s movies — Murder Party and Blue Ruin being the other two. Because of his close collaboration with Saulnier, I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is assured for a debut film.
We meet Ruth on what seems like the epitome of bad days. A giant pickup truck with pitch black exhaust smoke constantly shows up on Ruth’s commute to work. Someone cuts in front of her in line at the grocery store. One of her patients — Ruth is a nursing assistant — tells her to “keep your gigantic monkey dick out of my good pussy” before dying immediately. All of this is made worse when Ruth returns home to find that her house was robbed — her laptop, Grandma’s silver, and antidepressants are among the stolen. However, just like any bad day just seems to get worse, the cop that is assigned the case hints at Ruth committing insurance fraud before letting her know “he’ll get back to her.”
When Ruth is able to track her laptop using her phone, she enlists the help of her obnoxious neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood) — he has a rattail, studies karate, and lets his dog defecate on Ruth’s lawn constantly — to track down the culprits and take the law into her own hands. However, she quickly realizes that the plot is a lot more complicated than she initially thought.
Blair sets a tone that other movies find hard to tamp down. The movie is extremely dark, a lot of the comedy is dark as well, but it has a surprising amount of heart, mostly thanks to Melanie Lynskey’s portrayal of Ruth. On top of that, the stinging commentary on our societal norms is told from a cynical point of view that also has a touch of hope. The first movie that comes to mind when thinking about the shifting tone of this movie is the Coen Brother’s masterpiece, Fargo. Similarly to the plights of Marge Gunderson and Jerry Lundegaard, Ruth and Tony face the darknesses of our world while grasping to find where the good went.
However, narratively the film never takes off the way that Fargo does. It’s a crime thriller and screwball comedy, but the plot never quite excels in either aspect. That’s partially due to the film’s villains played by Jane Levy, David Yow, and Devon Graye. While the actors’ performances are quite good and make the most of what they’re given, their storylines and motivations don’t quite live up to the deeper introspection into our protagonists. Lynskey and Wood make the perfect comic and emotional duo. Lynskey plays up the emotions of everyday frustrations without going over the edge into camp — even when she projectile vomits at the sight of blood for nearly a minute. However, her descent into badassery is completely believable as her experiences throughout the movie shape and harden her until the film’s final climactic minutes. Wood, on the other hand, complements her with his no holds-performance of pure loserdom. At one point, he prays to God before breaking into a house, nearly snapping a man’s arm, and throwing a ninja star at the wall, without so much as a glimpse of insincerity. The combination of the two is what makes the film work.
At a lean 90 minutes, I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is a quick watch that feels even faster because of Macon Blair’s streamlined script. While at some points it feels like you want more and at others like it could be taken to the editing room, Macon Blair has proven himself to be a storyteller almost up to snuff with his friend Jeremy Saulnier. The final act of the movie, which doesn’t hold back on the violence or laughs, simply affirms the movie’s themes and tone in one of the most satisfying climaxes to a film I have seen this year, but it feels justified. That’s what makes this movie so successful. It’s determined to earn our adoration. Even then, I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is a profound reminder that as much as the world — line cutters, gas guzzlers, and all — seems to let us down, it’s still ours for the taking.
★★★ out of 5
I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is available on Netflix!