I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore

(disclaimer: Netflix continues to suck and needs to stop holding the American movie industry hostage by clinging to a clearly unsustainable exploitation-based business model. Also they have some good movies on there.)

I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE (2017) is a darkly comedic crime tale in a subgenre I would maybe describe as suburban pulp. A very ordinary, relatable protagonist falls victim to a very ordinary crime (burglary) and, compounded with the other indignities of her life (like some motherfucker always letting his dog shit on her lawn, even with a sign specifically saying not to do that), it pushes her past her usual timid boundaries into seeking some sense of justice. That gives her a peek into an underworld of corruption and depravity on the fringes of her town (filmed in and/or around Portland, Oregon). Nothing big time – just some rich assholes and some meth head weirdos, but certainly outside of her previous experience.

Melanie Lynskey (THE FRIGHTENERS) plays Ruth – single, depressed, put upon nursing assistant. The grimness of her existence is well summed up by the title as well as the first few minutes of the movie. It’s a series of illustrations of the overwhelming shittiness of modern living, most of them relatable, but also a pretty outrageous one where an elderly patient is watching cable news and growls just about the most obscenely racist thing you can imagine, then immediately dies. Later, her grieving son asks if there were any last words.

The only person Ruth has to talk to about this stuff is an old friend, Angie (Lee Eddy, KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON), whose husband (Matt Orduna) is clearly sick to death of Ruth being around, being needy. And the police sure as fuck won’t make her feel any better about the violation to her home. Detective Bendix (Gary Anthony Williams, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS) not only acts like she’s stupid for thinking anything can be done about it, but implies it was her fault. So in desperation she starts knocking on neighbors’ doors asking if they saw anything, and ends up talking to Tony (Elijah Wood, THE LAST WITCH HUNTER), a guy she confronted earlier about the whole dog shit thing. When she explains that she was robbed it really ignites his sense of outrage – in fact he gets so worked up about it it makes her uncomfortable and she has to leave.

She manages to locate her laptop using an app, which the police had suggested, but now they won’t look into it. She can’t exactly expect her real grown up friend with the husband and kid to be her back up, so she gets Tony. He’s into nunchakas and he’s a know-it-all about combat techniques, but his real power is being in situations where people don’t expect some little dude to actually attack them. There’s a great cinematic moment where he menaces some young people by tossing a throwing star into their living room wall. I think it confuses them more than scares them.

For her part, Ruth confuses the police by bringing them a plaster cast of a footprint from her backyard. The argument they have about it is really funny because he’s right to be acting like she’s a loon, and she’s right that the world is crazy and the police are useless for most situations and that they should at least learn how to be nice about it. Also, her DIY forensics actually do lead her to the culprit.

We see him before Ruth does. He’s a bleach blond creep named Christian Rumack Jr. (Devon Graye, NOPE). We meet him looking like he’s on a heroin nod while taking an upper decker dump in a stranger’s toilet during a party he wasn’t invited to. He steals some jewelry, is confronted by the host, beats him down on the way out. An Elmore Leonard type of villain, dangerous because of his stupidity.

He runs with two other tweakers who are saving up to buy a gun for a bigger score. There’s Dez (the excellent Jane Levy, EVIL DEAD, DON’T BREATHE) and then the boss/father figure/cult leader seems to be Marshall (David Yow of Scratch Acid and the Jesus Lizard), who pets Christian on the head and calls the two of them “my monkeys.”

Part of the small-timeness is the simplicity of the mystery. Ruth and Tony get the laptop back, then go to a junk shop it was purchased from, where they not only find her grandma’s silverware but encounter Christian and the gang in the process of hocking stolen jewelry. Soon there’s a really funny computer research scene where Tony talks like he thinks he’s a hacker in a circa 1995 cyber thriller. He dramatically mutters, “Open sesame” as he slowly types “Look up license plate?” into Google.

Their search leads them to a big, nice house where a friendly, drunk wife (Christine Woods, PADDLETON) is bored enough to entertain their claims of being cops, and a douchebag husband (Robert Longstreet, DOCTOR SLEEP, HALLOWEEN KILLS) is not. They also have a falling out over their methods (Tony is morally opposed to stealing a large lawn ornament) and all of these characters will eventually intersect and clash in a way that they will not enjoy.

I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic features. Other films to receive this honor include BLOOD SIMPLE, WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE, AMERICAN SPLENDOR, PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE, WINTER’S BONE, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, FRUITVALE STATION, WHIPLASH, and CODA. And then there are some other ones that you might not have heard of. If this one falls into the latter category it might be because it got bought by is only on Netflix, so if you don’t know to click on it it doesn’t exist. But it should exist. It’s good.

It’s written and directed by Macon Blair, who you may know as an actor. He was in THE FLORIDA PROJECT, LOGAN LUCKY, OPPENHEIMER, and a couple episodes of my favorite show Reservation Dogs as one of the guys who works at the catfish joint. I’ve always been happy to see him pop up in things since he starred in MURDER PARTY (2007) and BLUE RUIN (2013). He also had a major part in GREEN ROOM from the same director, Jeremy Saulnier. Since Blair has also written several movies, including Saulnier’s HOLD THE DARK (2018), I actually forgot he didn’t write those other ones. He was a producer on them, but not writer. His directing debut here has a far jokier tone than all of Saulnier’s movies post-MURDER PARTY, but I think it shares a certain sensibility: this idea of a criminal underworld that’s kinda creepy, kinda pathetic; characters who try to do cool movie type things with disastrous and embarrassing results; acts of senseless, sloppy violence that are sometimes accidental, always awkward, ugly and unglamorous. Here it’s often for comedic effect, but fucked up comedic effect.

I really love this tone, the world it takes place in and the opportunity it gives Lynskey to be a funny everyperson protagonist. She’s always great, but usually in a supporting role. Her inherent likable vulnerability is the engine to this whole thing.

This has been on my list to see since the day I gave in and got Netflix. What prompted me to finally go for it is the impending release of Blair’s remake of THE TOXIC AVENGER, featuring at least three of these actors. (Not Lynskey, unfortunately.) I suspect that will be much broader and sillier, but it would actually be cool if it overlaps at all with what he’s doing here. In a way these villains are kind of like a more grounded version of Tromaville punks, terrorizing people just for kicks, the crueler the better. Also, Derek Mears (Jason from FRIDAY THE 13TH 2009 and Swamp Thing in the most recent Swamp Thing TV show) is in a scene as a back alley gun dealer named Donkey Dick, which is not un-Troma-like.

Wood later played another goofy Oregon hipster character in another hard to classify indie I would recommend, COME TO DADDY.

I suppose you could say that a world you don’t feel at home in anymore is a world I can feel at home in. I relate to Ruth’s disappointment in society and her alienation from her peers who built more traditional, successful middle aged lives than she did or wanted to. This movie feels very true, but in a way where we can all laugh about it together, and maybe meet some new friends to commiserate with, if we can make it through some bad days and maimings.

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 14th, 2023 at 9:25 am and is filed under Reviews, Comedy/Laffs, Crime. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

6 Responses to “I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore”

  1. I only recently caught up with this one, and yeah, it’s really great. I’m always happy to see Linskey pop up anywhere (which she does less than I’d like) and this might be my favorite role of hers.

    I completely agree that Blair channels his buddy Saulnier; there’s a lot of BLUE RUIN in this movie’s DNA, and I love that you can see the differences in their sensibilities by where they ultimately take their movies. I am inordinately excited to see what he does with TOXIC AVENGER.

  2. Loved this movie. Honestly, I may have even enjoyed it more than Green Room, but I think hype and expectation pumped me up too much for that one (enjoyed it, didn’t love it, will give it a re-watch). Blue Ruin is still my favorite of all these connected movies, but I also appreciate the more overtly humorous tone of I Don’t….
    Lynskey is always great but generally under-utilized, its wonderful to see her getting the lead role in something unique and worthy of her talents instead of Two and a Half Men (although I’m sure she appreciated those paychecks). And Elijah Wood is just one of my favorite people ever, and I have totally met people like the guy he perfectly captures in this movie. I try to avoid parasocial feelings with entertainers because you never know what dark secret will fuck it up, but Wood seems to be one of the nicest and most genuine guys in Hollywood. Wood is 4 years older than me, and when I was a kid he was one of the only child actors I liked. Then he amazingly managed to maintain both indie and mainstream success through his teen and adult years (man The Ice Storm really fucked me up as a teen). The fact that he used his money and clout from Lord of the Rings to indulge his inner horror nerd and help get crazy shit made as a producer and actor is truly admirable. During lockdown a Hollywood writer started a virtual talk show in the game Animal Crossing. Wood was an absolute delight as a guest, the only person I enjoyed more was Danny FUCKING Trejo showing off his virtual muscle beach and pulling butterflies out of his pocket (lots of celebrity guests didn’t play the game and someone else would make and puppet their virtual avatar, but Danny FUCKING Trejo was already big into it and showed off his personal island). And special shout out to Jane Levy for her small but extremely memorable role. She is impossibly beautiful and can do sitcoms (Suburgatory was fun!) and the like, but is willing to go all in as a borderline feral meth head in this, or get covered in blood and filth in Evil Dead while cackling and crying.

  3. Slight correction. I believe it was always a Netflix movie and Netflix brought it to Sundance with a few others. I recall dealing with Netflix at that Sundance and it was a real turning point when Sundance became not only a feeding service for the streamers but one they used to give their product the prestige of a festival.

    So I agree netflix sucks but this and The Night Comes for Us and a few others are good and should exist so yay for them!

  4. I LOVE this movie. At once it’s an incredibly minor piece, but with so much funny detail and just a great time.

    I think, and hope, that Blair will be going for this sort of tone with Toxic Avenger. No point in going super silly, it’s been done and no point being a Lloyd rehash. But do it semi-seriously, in a way that’s fun and quality, takes the characters seriously, but really gory and has some really goofy characters like this one…it will be a winner. And I don’t think Dinklage or Kevin Bacon would have signed up if it was going to be just a goof. But a tone sort of less dark but on the lines of Super, or this movie will be amazing.

  5. The underutilization of Melanie Lynskey has been mentioned a couple of times. Has anyone seen YELLOWJACKETS, and if so, what are your thoughts on that and her performance in it? I’ve only seen the first season, which I found to be fairly decent overall (that’s high praise for me for a TV series), and Lynskey is one of the highlights.

  6. Also good to see the shout out to Reservation Dogs, its absolutely one of the best shows on TV. I am bummed its ending, but the fact that it got 3 seasons is pretty miraculous.

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