Thursday, November 03, 2022

I’m Totally Fine: Alien Grief Therapy

Mork from Ork was funny and Starman was poignant, but future extraterrestrial visitors really need to polish their social skills before making contact. This visitor has a bit of an advantage, because she assumes the form of her test subject’s recently deceased friend. However, she is untrained and ill-suited to help her Earthling contact work through her grief. She might even make things worse in Brandon Dermer’s I’m Totally Fine, which releases tomorrow in theaters and on-demand.

This was supposed to be Vanessa and Jennifer’s big weekend party to celebrate landing a distribution deal for their healthy soda. Tragically, Jennifer passed away due to undetected heart defect. Understandably, Vanessa did not think to cancel the Airbnb, the catering or the DJ. She had gone to grieve in private, but an alien in the form of Jennifer intrudes on her solitude.

In addition to looking like Jennifer, the alien also somehow scanned the late woman’s memories, so she can answer Vanessa’s questions that only Jennifer would know. Of course, the grief-stricken friend assumes she is going nuts, despite the cheesy orientation video. However, some of the memories alien Jennifer recalls are actually quite therapeutic. In fact, she starts to develop a friendship with the new Jennifer all over again.

Totally Fine
is a small film, but it is not too cute—which is a good thing. Screenwriter Alisha Ketry addresses themes of grief and guilt in realistically mature and messy ways. It is just something you have to get through, even with extraterrestrial intervention.

Natalie Morales is pretty amusing as the gawky, blunt-spoken, olive oil-guzzling alien Jennifer. She is definitely a Sheldon Cooper-ish alien, but it is not a one note performance. In fact, she develops some unusual but rather endearing buddy chemistry with Jillian Bell (as Vanessa). Bell has the less showy role, but we see and get all her sorrow, anger, and resentment. Seriously, she has a lot to deal with here.

Even with the mild science fiction elements,
Totally Fine is very much a relationship film. Granted, it gets a little bogged down in the middle, but it is never annoying, believe it or not. You’re much better off watching this than some drippy melodrama that wants to be the next Beaches. Recommended for what it is, I’m Totally Fine opens tomorrow (11/4) at the Village East.