In 2011, comedian/filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait sent a message to the American public – stop being an assholes. His film God Bless America was a no-holds-barred attack on our culture’s most mind-numbing afronts. Did we get the message? Assumedly not. Some six years have passed, and actor/filmmaker Macon Blair has something similar to say – albeit a more restrained message. Hey humanity, stop being “assholes, dildoes and fuckfaces.” As much as life imitates art, you’d better believe the phrase works both ways. I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore isn’t just a title, it’s a general feeling about our me-me-me, all-for-one society – and one hell of a directorial debut for Mr. Blair.
Melanie Lynskey stars as Ruth, a small-town nurse who can’t help but see the worst in people. Souped-up roadsters spew black smog. Supermarket shoppers leave dropped items on the ground. Neighbors don’t pick up their dog’s shit. Ruth has had enough, especially when her house gets robbed of a laptop, some meds and her Grandmother’s silverware. The cops are no help, even when Ruth’s locator app reveals the stolen computer’s coordinates. She can file a report – of where her stolen laptop is – or she can take matters into her own hands. Ruth does the latter, and brings Tony (Elijah Wood) along as her karate-kicking backup. Vigilante justice is the only way to get things done these days, but as Ruth finds out, there are always consequences for your actions. Even if said actions are just.
To call I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore a dark dramadey would be understating the obvious. Before Lynskey finds herself embroiled in a criminal scheme by way of underworld hive-poking, Blair’s social commentary bleeds this angsty, angry flavor of unrest. We’ve become a collective who no longer respect the common whole, waddling through life without responsibility. As Lynskey copes with feelings of hopelessness, she struggles to understand the point of an unfulfilling life. We all just become “carbon” after we die, no matter the path we’ve led. Be it her character’s grandmother, who spent years bringing dinner to cancer patients, or her racist patient, whose final words cursed an entire racial background. Assholes, dildoes and fuckfaces. Can’t say she’s off the mark?
Opening scenes may be a bit grim for the cheery optimists out there, but they still present some comical takes. As Lynskey empties her soul to a five-year-old who just wants a bedtime story, biting depression marries with slapstick humor. Marijuana only enhances Lynskey’s morose mentality, as she surfs from couch to couch with little ambition. Lynskey plays the part of down-and-out with relatable cynicism, especially for those who share her inability to stomach Earth’s human pollution.
Once we meet Elijah Wood’s redneck shogun, the film gets an uptick in intrigue. Lynskey’s defeated suburbanite says “fuck it, we’ll do it live,” and we meet a character in Tony who still rocks a rat-tail, bench presses in his backyard and swings a mace during combat. Tony feels like a Napoleon Dynamite character, except with the confidence to kick down doors and immediately plant throwing stars in someone’s face. He’s the “muscle” Ruth needs, and also the positive influence who shares her distaste of unlawful dickheads. Their relationship blossoms over confrontations and bottles of whisky, proving that likeminded companions can combat the harsh realities of daily douchebaggery.
As Ruth embraces a life of anti-crime (doing the right thing!), things expectedly go South. You’ll meet an upper-decker-leaving bandit, Jane Levy’s facial-tattooed criminal, a half-baked robbery scheme – all the small-scale dramatics gone horribly awry. Blair’s direction is focused, and champions the simplicity of it all. Shades of Jeremy Saulnier (his frequent collaborator) influence the film’s more brutal moments, while Lynskey/Wood carve a wonderful relationship amidst bloody shankings and dead bodies. All Blair’s protagonist wants is to tell one single burglar that stealing is wrong, yet she finds herself kidnapped, beaten and stacked against a detective whose personal issues make him unsavory at best (played by Gary Anthony Williams). It’s an indie crime shake-up that doesn’t deviate from plotted molds, but Blair’s script stings with a societal reflection that hurts so good.
I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore won’t be for everyone, but those who feel like a black sheep in public will no-doubt share on-screen sentiments. For a first-time feature, Macon Blair makes a confident, calculated debut. One that finds comedy in blackened places, and pulls off a seedy, blue-collar mystery with the best of intentions. We’ve all been Ruth at some point in our lives, so fed up with an unchanging downward trend that’s making it harder to tolerate our own species. The title speaks for itself. Help subdue your own “asshole” complaints by nodding along to Blair’s silly yet serious rom-dram-com. Come for the “fuck this” attitude, stay for Wood’s terrible hairdo. It’s the cathartic release you didn’t know you needed.
I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore is a winning combination of anger, frustration and stinging social satire.