It would be easy to look at the title of this stellar oddball indie—a film buckling with distinctly American rage, splattery violence and plenty of dark laughs—and find a certain timeliness. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is the movie of the moment, and if you get emotional over it, know that you have company in its main character. Lonely medical assistant Ruth (Melanie Lynskey, seething and magnetic, just as she was in Heavenly Creatures as a teenager) fumes at everything she sees: the obnoxious coal-roller in his monster truck spewing black smoke, the people who cut her off in line at the supermarket, the dog shit left on her lawn. And when Ruth comes home one day to find she’s been burglarized, there’s an almost cosmic completion to her total state of sadness.
Writer-director Macon Blair (the lead actor of Blue Ruin, making a confident, Coens-esque debut behind the camera) so beautifully sets up his shabby, me-first universe that its larger comic dimension sneaks up on you. Somehow, Ruth has reached her tipping point. This timid woman with the beaten-up Chevy who listens to alt-country and reads novels is going to get loud. It starts with recruiting her intense neighbor—a rat-tailed martial-arts enthusiast named Tony (Elijah Wood, putting his fragility to riotous use)—in her quest to recover her stolen laptop. No, the film isn’t plunging into a romantic vein, at least not overtly. But Tony definitely yearns for a “mission” and she’s got one for him. Their unspoken chemistry is the movie’s funniest, purest gift.
Where I Don’t Feel at Home takes them—deep into criminal territory roamed by junkies, poisonous wood snakes, fat-cat lawyers and their wine-swilling trophy wives (some of this is broad caricature, the tiniest of letdowns)—is almost kaleidoscopic in its white-trash bounty. The film plays like a Trump-state Big Lebowski, as Ruth and Tony’s amateur sleuthing teases out a much deeper conviction, perfectly stated by its main character. When asked what she ultimately wants, Ruth spits, “For people to not be assholes.” She’ll never get that wish, but the way Blair speeds us to his conclusion, it’s impossible to not be swept away in Ruth's dream of vengeance, one many of us might be savoring for a while.
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