Pat Healy’s Take Me is a wild card – but what else would you expect from a man whose performances are just as unpredictable? It’s a nifty little whodunnit that’s loads of fun, given how every action remains in question. Writer Mike Makowsky keeps details simple, but still finds a way to manipulate characters with the help of Healy’s vision. You’d expect something a little more tense, but oddly good-natured goofs represent tonal comfort. Frankly, this shouldn’t work. A who’s-playing-who “thriller” that bumbles along to an oboe score? Like a cartoon might? Consider this one a not-so-criminal anomaly.
Healy also stars as the film’s lead character, Ray Moody, who runs a business called Kidnap Solutions that simulates real-life kidnappings for paying customers. Why, you ask? As Ray describes, he loves helping people. Whether you’re trying to kick an eating habit or need the isolation, Ray does his best to deliver an 8-hour experience tailored to the “victim’s” specific needs. It’s his life’s work, which means the challenge of a 48-hour simulation can’t be turned down. This is what Anna St. Blair (Taylor Schilling) requests, for a cool $5k sum. Ray does his research, strikes and the scenario is under way – but does he have the right mark? Anna swears she has no idea what’s going on, and with the police now on alert, this might be Ray’s last job depending on who really hired his services.
The premise works because Healy positions Ray Moody exactly as needed. In the very first scene, he’s seen trying to acquire a bank loan for corporate purposes. Kidnap Solutions LLC could be a nation-wide hit in Ray’s eyes, and we get a true sense of his entrepreneurial nature. I mean, he genuinely cares about each kidnapping. This makes him a bit unreadable – whether his passion is for bettering clients or pulling off a “legal” crime – but Healy’s tender nature (post-simulation) paints a good man. One who could easily be taken advantage of by a manipulative kidnapee (if Schilling’s character is a dynamite actress) or, even worse, someone who sets him up.
Chemistry between Healy and Taylor Schilling is pensive, curious and misleading. Their misunderstood back-and-forth is something out of an old-school Kevin Kline film, somehow serious but always jovial. Yes, the kidnapping scenario is understood. Do not misread the film’s light-hearted intentions. Momentary darkness evokes a violent, unseen side of Healy’s otherwise cheery businessman, but that’s just a testament to Schilling’s devotion to mystery. Romantic chemistry is momentarily dangled, only to have Schilling once again pierce through her captor with these cold, survivalist eyes. We watch as control slowly shifts from male domination to female manipulation. Cops, knife wounds, locked trunks – nothing can throw either lead’s momentum.
Sometimes tone does present a challenge, as Ray tries to unravel his confounding predicament. An “Anna St. Blair” requested his kidnapping services, but Ray’s tied-up Anna St. Blair denies every clue. That $2.5K deposit Ray receives? “It’s signed ‘Anonymous!'” The voice on his answering machine? “That could be anyone!” St. Blair plays dumb around every turn, and while it’s endearing, the story itself hits a bit on-the-nose. Healy manages to maintain focus on a misunderstood “hero” who just wants to better people’s lives, while also playing up the horrors of a well-intended man full of excuses. Both themes work given his checkered past (an incident in Atlantic City), but the never-so-serious tone will be a negative for some viewers. What you see in the first few minutes is what you get – remember that.
Take Me is a sunny little daydream about fetishistic domination, spun around one man’s jabby little gender battle. There is a sweetness to it all, as well as an undeniable creep factor (not just Pat Healy’s wig). Performances are intertwined and reactive, driving factors remain simple, pacing moves forward – it’s hard to despise such a simulated disaster. Something more along the lines of Get Shorty, never to be experienced like a gritty Taken flick. Isn’t that a nice distraction in today’s day and age?
Take Me is a goofball kidnapping scenario with a much deeper meaning, but a light, jovial tone never wavers.