I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017) / Comedy-Thriller
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably R for strong violence and language
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, Devon Graye, David Yowe, Christine Woods, Jane Levy, Lee Eddy, Gary Anthony Williams
Small role: Macon Blair
Director: Macon Blair
Screenplay: Macon Blair
Review published March 9, 2017
Ruth Kimke (Lynskey, They Came Together) is a misfit in her own local society, a nursing assistant who looks at the people at the bitter, uncaring world she's living in and feels increasingly disconnected. Her opinions on human beings only gets worse when thieves ransack her home and make away with such things as her laptop and grandmother's irreplaceable silverware. The police look into it but generally feel it's useless to spend much time investigating, leaving Ruth to have to do her own sleuthing in order to regain her things and to see justice served, along with the help of the only person she's seemed to befriend of late, her kooky but seemingly fearless neighbor Tony (Wood, The Last Witch Hunter).
There's not a great deal of story to delve into here, with the plot merely used as a springboard to showcase a cast of character actors getting to do some kooky things along the way. Along those lines, the actors are generally fine, but the characterizations are thin and their wackiness doesn't always translate to solid laughs. Elijah Wood goes all in to the zany, Jared Hess-esque antics of rat-tailed metal-head martial-artist Tony, but never disappears into the role in a way that would make for an astute send-up. Much of the build-up is merely iterating the protagonists' feeling that's denoted by the title, where she finds displeasure to all of the "a-holes" around her who seem to only care about themselves.
I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore is perhaps most notable as the debut of Macon Blair as a director, who gained notoriety primarily as an actor featured prominently in the films of Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room), to which this film attempts to emulate to some degree. Blair's use of violence isn't nearly as assured as Saulnier, mostly employing it to set a darkly comic tone, though even then, the results are uneven at best. More than anything, Blair is under the presumption that the semblance of utter randomness in the characters and developments will produce comedy (tidbits like 'cat meat makes a person invisible', a deadly snake confrontation, and other such kooky events), and while occasionally diverting, wittier laughs are sparse. Some of the banter between Ruth and the jaded cop named Det. William Bendix (Gary Anthony Williams, TMNT: Out of the Shadows -- yes, William Bendix, like the classic film actor) on the case offer some insights on where the film could have found its comedic spark, but even those scenes lose flavor when we see that cop break down in anguish because of his own personal relationship issues bubbling up to the surface.
Meanwhile, the mystery and thriller elements are contrived to the point where every scene is punctuated by the forced inclusion of one more clue to keep Ruth one step closer to her quest to tracking down the person responsible for the intrusion and burglary. The end result is a Coen Brothers-esque farce with daft heroes, bumbling villains, dark humor, and sudden violence. Unfortunately, what Macon Blair's film lack is their interest in thematic relevance, as well as a modicum of genuine suspense, leaving most of that to half-baked feelings of a progressive-minded woman in a town full of the entitled, the racist, the blithely ignorant, and the criminals, who will take so long as those who are taken from let them.
While I enjoy the thematic premise of how, if one perceives the world around them is going to the dogs, and the government (here represented by law enforcement) is unwilling or unable to do anything about it, your duty is to speak out and/or resist, which is a poignant message in the political environment in which I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore is being released. However, I just wish that this message had been distilled into a much more pointed, witty, and honed film than what Blair ends up delivering, as it feel like good ideas still in search of a good story by the end.
©2017 Vince Leo