I’m not quite sure how to say this, but people suck. I’m sure at this point in your life, you’ve probably realized some variation of this sentiment for one reason or another, but there’s some truth to it. And it seems with each passing day, things become worse (or at least you become more aware of the world around you), especially with the climate we live in. So whenever a film comes along where the protagonists release their true emotions towards this horrific world, usually with vigilantism and/or violence, we as an audience want to cheer these people for having the courage to say and do what we’ve always wanted. Macon Blair’s newest film I don’t feel at home in this world anymore. is the newest film in this genre, and while it in no way revolutionizes the genre, it does possess strong acting and a keen directorial vision to tell a compelling small scale story to release our inner sentiments.
Ruth Kimke (Melanie Lynskey) is having a rough go of things. She suffers from anxiety and depression, she’s surrounded by uncaring and racist individuals at her work as a hospice nurse, and to make things worse, she comes home to find her house robbed, and her laptop, grandmother’s silverware, and antidepressants stolen. The police refuse to help her-it’s her fault she left the door open, and she’s just some depressed nut job anyway. So, with few options left, she sets out on a journey for justice with her neighbor, the heavy metal loving martial arts “expert” Tony (Elijah Wood).
I’m going to start with the negative before the positive, which is in no way an indication of how I felt about the movie. It’s just the issues I had with it prevailed in my mind throughout in a way I need to get it off my chest before I talk about the reasons this is a good film. As I mentioned above, this sort of vigilante film is nothing new to cinema. The 70s loved the lone man (or woman) out for justice. Hell, just a few years ago, comedian Bobcat Goldthwait made God Bless America, a film that tackled similar subject matters. And considering the bombast of Blair’s last few films, I was actually kind of hoping for something along the lines of Goldthwait’s dark comedy-a big, bloody good time of a woman’s quest to right the wrongs in her society because people have forgotten to be nice. However, considering the lengths Blair had gone to in Blue Ruin and Green Room, the film feels…restrained, almost like he was holding back. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but considering the topic, the genre, and the filmmaker, I was hoping for a more solid condemnation of the world than this film ended up offering up. While it’s 96 minute running time is short, sweet, and to the point, Blair is so tight and so efficient, he could probably get away with another 30 minutes to an hour just fleshing out this world and furthering his vision. He certainly earned that right, and I feel audiences would greatly appreciate it.
Now that I’ve gotten that issue out of the way, let’s talk about how much I’ve enjoyed this film. Macon Blair really does have an eye for building a scene and staging frightening violence. His use of color and dialogue really builds a sense of tension that few other artists in the business truly understand. He also possesses an understanding of inner-city decay that rings hauntingly true. From the designs of the homes to the strangeness of a street fair, each setting pops in its drabness. However, what I didn’t realize was that he also has a remarkable sense of humor. It’s not really prevalent in his other films (I certainly didn’t really see it in Green Room, except for fleeting glimpses), but it’s incredibly strong. Some of the dialogue is hilariously awkward, the violence is already layered in irony and humor (two particular death scenes are laugh-out-loud hysterical), and the actors know exactly how to play it-extraordinarily straight-faced. It’s a wickedly funny movie in a way you don’t expect, and that sense of dry humor helps to make the movie stand out against others of its ilk.
The movie really works thanks to the starring turn by Melanie Lynskey. For years, Lynskey has been a revered talent, breaking out as Rose on Two and a Half Men before making several great films as an indie darling. I haven’t seen much of her work with the talented Duplass Brothers, but I may have to start watching if they’re all as great as her performance here. Ruth’s journey from withdrawn and timid to strong-willed and independent is a joy to watch, especially because she never changes in an unbelievable way. She never wholeheartedly embraces violence-indeed, her compassion and reticent nature actually is the reason for her eventual victory. It’s a great characterization, and she’s an absolute firecracker to watch, especially when paired opposite Elijah Wood. I honestly can’t tell if Wood is a good actor or not, but he’s gotten down his dumbass-ness to such a science that so long as he picks the right roles, he continues to shine. And honestly, the dumbass shtick works perfectly for Tony, a somewhat socially awkward heavy metal fan that speaks in stunted, oddly wonderful sentences, and giving the movie’s best speech in a description on nunchucks. Watching him attempt to use a morning star is something I could do on repeat until the day I die. There really aren’t many characters outside of the two leads, but there are some that come to mind. Devon Graye is the perfect little creep as Christian Rumack, Jr., and his step-mother is played to annoying perfection by Christine Woods. Gary Anthony Williams as Detective William Bendix pissed me off to no end, but I think that was the point, so I’ll give his performance some credit. However, this film suffers from a lack of Jane Levy, whose character is supposed to be important to the plot, and yet only has ten minutes of screen-time, at most, and she barely even speaks. Levy is a national treasure, give her more lines and more onscreen appearances.
I don’t feel at home in this world anymore. is a film you’ve seen before. Perhaps you’ve even seen it better. However, it has a very game cast, and it allowed director Macon Blair to really hone his craft as a dark comedy writer/director. There’s some really excellent twists on the genre here, and it’s a really pleasant (so to speak) film to throw on for a quick Friday night watch on Netflix. It’s not the most memorable film, but it’s one with a lot of heart, and I applaud well-made films that possess a lot of heart.