LIVING IN OBLIVION
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore
Review by Paul Preston
If it feels like it’s been seventeen plus years since you’ve seen a brand new ‘90s movie, well…the math adds up. But fear not, Netflix is here with a new film that just won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, and it has the characters, plot and independent feel to put you right back in the Jane Pickens Theater in Newport, RI (at least that’s where I was in the ‘90s). Also, as I mentioned, this is coming to you from Netflix, pretty much one of the only places now where you can see ‘90s movies, so it feels right at home there.
So what do you want out of your ‘90s movie? First of all, was it a Sundance hit? Check. Quirky characters a la Boogie Nights? Absolutely. Melanie Lynskey plays Ruth, a nurse who comes home to find her place broken into, and she sets out to retrieve her laptop and other belongings from the culprits. Along the way she enlists the help of her neighbor and even quirkier personality, Tony, played by Elijah Wood. Wood is the barrier-pushingest character in the quirky department, straying towards cartoonish, which could spell a conflict of styles. But somehow the film keeps on track, plunging our characters into deeper and deeper messes where Tony’s Chinese throwing star shenanigans are welcome.
What else? Buckets of blood? You got it. Like the hailstorm of gunfighting at the end of True Romance, violence shows up here after a long stretch without it and quickly makes up for lost time. In ‘90s-movie-Falling–Down fashion, there’s a slow build at work here, where not only does Ruth’s robbery set her off, but the inherent insensitivity and rudeness of people in general is gnawing at her to where her tolerance gives.
Lynskey, oft-shining in supporting parts (Away We Go, Up in the Air), carries this film quite well. Frumpier than she normally appears, Lynskey’s weight reflects that of the world on her shoulders as Ruth, god bless her, is just trying to get by. Elijah Wood does well by the eccentric Tony. I wouldn’t have thought of casting him but the choice wins as there’s much funny gotten out of a guy his stature being a weightlifting martial arts aficionado. His riled-up moments are good comedy as he and Lynskey become their own out-of-their-league detective team. In fact, the whole movie is funny, like Pulp Fiction or Rushmore was funny, through awkward moments and heightened stakes.
So I’ve mentioned violence, comedy, quirkiness – it’s got everything and first-time director Macon Blair balances it well. Blair was an actor in the equally uncomfortable Jeremy Saulnier films Blue Ruin and Green Room, and learned how to make a sharp-looking indie. Like those festival-winning ‘90s movies of the past (last time I’ll reference them, I promise), production value is high, although given the technology afforded to indie projects today (as opposed to 1993), that’s not much of a surprise.
There’s isn’t much to say negatively about this film, it’s pretty much a crowd-pleaser to watch Ruth strike out against the thoughtless and callous chowderheads who have it coming. There are many refreshing surprises and plot change-ups to keep you engaged, but if you’re a simpler filmgoer, you might not invite such a thing. If you enjoy one style of film, and one only, for your Netflix adventure, don’t get comfy, ‘cause this film likes to change it up.
I suppose I’ll end with the biggest difference between this and the Sundance Award-winning films of the ‘90s (sorry) – back then they got a theatrical release. Maybe 2016’s winner The Birth of a Nation, underperforming as it did (it made twice its budget domestically, but that didn’t equal the amount Fox Searchlight paid to acquire it), scared off Netflix to give this a streaming and theatrical release. Or maybe Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation didn’t have strong box office, either, but true to Netflix’s form, we have no idea how it performed streaming (they don’t release numbers). This one’s going straight to your TV.
But I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a Netflix production, and technically therefore has no reason to play in theaters (but when it did, at Sundance, it won awards). Amazon gave a multi-platform release to Manchester By The Sea and it’s earned closed to $50 Million on a $8.5 Million budget. I guess my point is I would like to have seen this on the big screen, and the shocking and amusing moments of the film enjoyed by an audience would’ve been fun. For now, I hope among all the TV shows that seem to dominate a channel called NetFLIX, this movie doesn’t get lost.
Directed by: Macon Blair
Release Date: February 24, 2016
Run Time: 93 Minutes