Comedy capers are only as good as the characters that inhabit their world. Pulp Fiction is the Hall of Fame entry into the genre, with heavily dark comedy strewn throughout the film. Barton Fink remains one of the great Coen Brothers films, despite its diminished popularity among general audiences. Seven Psychopaths and Fargo combine diverse characters to create extremely violent films that play on their violent acts for comedy. This is the category that I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore falls into. Films that juxtapose violence with comedy are tough sells in many cases, but I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore deserves its place in the crime comedy genre.
By the time bullets start flying in I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore you’ve already bought into characters in the film. Melanie Lynskey plays Ruth, a young woman whose house gets broken into. After meeting apathy from the police, Ruth begins investigating the events that led to such a personal yet uncaring violation. The robbery opens Ruth’s eyes to the unsympathetic world around her and presents her with a path to becoming an amateur sleuth herself. She quickly throws herself into a Lebowskiesque quest to find her Grandmother’s missing silver, which causes her to get mixed up in an evolving crime spree.
On the road to finding the motives and individuals responsible for the break-in, she begins a relationship with Elijah Wood‘s Tony. Tony is weird in every sense of the word, a man who lets his dog poop in people’s yards, works out to heavy rock music, and carries throwing stars. While weird, he’s also surprisingly charming in a way that only Wood seems capable of. The also boasts some solid performances from Jane Levy, Christine Woods, and David Yow. The cast may be full of unknowns, but the characters are rich and complex, as only crime films can make them.
Most of the credit belongs to Macon Blair, who both wrote and directed the film. While this is Blair’s directorial debut, audiences know him from his roles in Jeremy Saulnier’s “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room.” In many ways, “I Don’t Feel at Home” is a more comedic version of those films, and Saulnier’s influence is all over this film. The violence is gut-wrenching and incredibly gory when it decides to prioritize it.
However, even in dark moments, the film finds comedy. This is the difference between Blair’s film and the Saulnier films. While the violence may reach similar extremes, it is stylized to match the tone of the film. This is largely due to the screenplay, which has genuinely funny moments strewn through a dark tale. Pulpy crime is sometimes a tough sell with comedy, but here, Blair showcases an understanding of the two genres that elevates his film tremendously.
Also in Blair’s corner is excellent work by cinematographer Larkin Seiple. Seiple’s a cinematographer to watch for in the future, with a resume centered around this and the Daniels’ Swiss Army Man. Seiple’s shots help the world feel alive and are just as important to the tension building as Blair’s script. The film’s finale is where the shot composition takes off, featuring some of the best shots of 2017.
Overall the film is excellent. It’s the bench depth that Blair pulls that helps the film stand out, and in turn, the cast delivers on Blair’s enjoyable dark but funny script. It’ll be interesting to see how others receive the film and what projects await Blair in the coming years. If this is any indication, sign me up for whatever he has in store in the future.