Friday, January 20, 2017

Sundance ’17: I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore

It beats bowling. As police forces are increasingly emasculated by the professional activist sector, vigilantism could become a good date activity. Ruth Kimke and her neighbor might just be ahead of the curve for once. However, they are ill-prepared for the desperate scumminess of the villains they will hunt in Macon Blair’s Netflix-produced I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Kimke’s life was already pretty sad. Having her laptop and her grandmother’s silver burglarized sends her to the end of her tether. It is really more about the revulsion for having her space invaded than the actual stuff (though the loss of her connection to her beloved grandmother is a real bummer). Of course, the cops can’t/won’t do Jack Straw, so when she locates her laptop’s GPS, she recruits her neighbor Tony, the only member of her limited social circle who would be willing to join her.

It turns out the punks with her laptop bought it semi-legitimately from a dodgy second-hand goods retailer. That leads to another ugly scene, but it also puts them on the trail of the thief, an entitled thug recently disowned by his exasperated wealthy father. Rather inconveniently, Kimke’s campaign of righteous indignation has complicated the more ambitious plans he has cooked up with his lowlife associates.

IDFAHITWA might not be a cinematic revelation, but it is mordantly funny and briskly paced. Blair (probably best known as the lead in Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin) takes a shrewdly understated approach, shunning the over-stylized excesses that often weigh down otherwise promising neo-noir gene indies. Instead, he gives Melanie Lynskey space to create a full and complete character study of an ordinary working class woman under unusual stress.

Blair is also unusually evenhanded in the treatment of Tony, the goofy sidekick, suggesting maybe a Jesus freak with pretentions of martial arts virtuosity isn’t the worst guy to have around, when you get right down to it. Likewise, Elijah Wood teases out Tony’s daffy charm and makes his various tics, like outbreaks of prayer at times of sudden pressure rather reasonable, all things considered.

As you would expect from Blair’s recent credits, IDFAHITWA has a dark sensibility, but it is never nihilistic. Frankly, it is quite pleasantly enjoyable, which is definitely something. Considering the genre portfolio Wood is building, it will definitely wind up on a lot of Netflix-generated user-profile lists. Recommended for fans of colorful Fargo-like crime dramas, I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore screens again this morning (1/20) in Park City, tomorrow (1/21) at the Sundance Mountain Resort (remember that is haul from PC, UT), and Wednesday (1/25) and Thursday (1/26) in Salt Lake, as part of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.