Greetings again from the darkness. It’s understandable why we ended up with so many Pandemic-based movies. Writers need to write. Actors need to perform. Filmmakers need to make movies. Even the trickery can be accepted given the unusual circumstances. With his latest, writer-director Andrew Bujalski, the father of Mumblecore, delivers an unusual ensemble piece – one where the actors share scenes, but not the set.
The opening sequence is easily the film’s best and most interesting. Lili Taylor and Lennie James awaken in the afterglow of their first hook-up. Things obviously went well … and plenty far … and now two grown-ups are trying to figure out the next step. He seems to be upbeat and optimistic about their spending more time together, while she sports her battle wounds by assuming things won’t work out … going so far to ‘joke’ about him murdering her. With very little effort, it’s obvious to see the two actors are not in the same room despite the cleverly edited shots blended to pretend otherwise. The interaction between the two characters says much about ‘no-longer-youngsters’ and their attitude towards new relationships.
It’s in the next scene where we begin to catch on to Bujalski’s approach. Lili Taylor meets up with her AA sponsor (Annie LaGanga) for some tough love and some awkward conversation. It happens this quickly … the film begins to veer off and leave us wondering about the characters we are meeting. Our fears are solidified in the next sequence when Ms. LaGanga confronts her son’s teacher (Molly Gordon) in what comes across as an inhumane manner. And Ms. Gordon’s reactions are equally unlikely. So through three vignettes, we have met four characters, and now we don’t much care for three of them. By the end of the film, we find ourselves not really liking anyone we’ve come across.
Jason Schwartzman plays sketchy attorney to an equally-sketchy tech guru played by Avi Nash, and Schwartzman’s character is later visited in the night by his mentor-ghost (Roy Nathanson). What we have is a series of interconnections that overlap and tie-in the lives of multiple characters. Between each segment, there is a musical interlude where we see Jon Natchez performing the music. It’s an odd, experimental, extremely talkative approach to COVID cinema that seems to play on our many insecurities and frustrations. It’s difficult to imagine too many finding this entertaining now that so many new features are being released, so it’s best to keep in mind that the actors, crew, and filmmakers all continued to work in spite of the many challenges.
Available in theaters and On Demand beginning November 18, 2022