I Used to Be Funny review – Rachel Sennott can’t save messy PTSD drama

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There’s a particular, distinctly online statement – dead-eyed, chaotic, teetering betwixt hyper self-consciousness and illusion assurance – that comedian Rachel Sennott tin deed truthful efficaciously it will temporarily and memorably spark its container: Twitter, wherever she roseate to prominence arsenic a self-aware zillennial drama It Girl; Bodies Bodies Bodies, wherever she provided nan bulk of nan scary comedy’s actual zingers; The Idol, wherever her spot portion arsenic a popular star’s adjunct was 1 of the misbegotten HBO series’ fewer highlights. As a lead – successful Emma Seligman’s claustrophobic characteristic Shiva Baby and, little successfully, successful Seligmans’ follow-up drama Bottoms – Sennott stretched her shtick but remained astir successful successful this familiar, self-deprecating zone, though she has hinted astatine thing darker and little irony-pilled.

I Used to Be Funny, nan characteristic debut from nan Canadian writer-director Ally Pankiw, overambitiously tries to harvester Sennott’s proven comedic chops pinch a trauma crippled successful nan format of a thriller. Sennott plays Sam Cowell, a Toronto-based twentysomething reeling from a mysterious (though wholly predictable) Traumatic Event handled for illustration a lump of ember (“things person been different since, you cognize …”). The fallout has made her, according to mini glances astatine a Twitter-like timeline, a societal media pariah and a recluse. Once a promising standup, Sam is now astir bedridden, floating done life via nan affectional and financial support of her friends, chap comics Paige (Sabrina Jalees) and Philip (Caleb Hearon, by acold nan champion plus of this movie), and concerned ex-boyfriend Noah (Ennis Esmer).

When nan 14-year-old woman Sam erstwhile nannied goes missing, nan movie splinters into 2 messy timelines: nan present, successful which Sam attempts to heal and re-enter nan standup scene, and a bid of derivatively filmed PTSD flashbacks, wherever Sam bonded pinch nan motherless, sullen teenage girl, Brooke (Olga Petsa) and coexisted pinch Brooke’s begetter Cameron (Jason Jones), a widowed bull who took typical liking successful Sam’s comedy. (Add I Used to Be Funny to nan database of movies arbitrarily group successful 2019, astatine slightest successful 1 timeline, to debar immoderate mention of nan pandemic).

That this each fails to cohere is little nan responsibility of Sennott, who, successful nan sweaty fugue of traumatic flashbacks, demonstrates immoderate committedness playing much straightforwardly melodramatic moments, than nan film’s pinch an unwieldy reside and level attempts astatine suspense. Pankiw’s penning lurches awkwardly betwixt web soap played consecutive and grounded, internet-inflected banter from comedians invoking nan overmuch much successful Hacks – Sam, dripping h2o from a bath, learns of Brooke’s disappearance from nan section news to an ominous people by Ames Bessada; Paige, seeing Sam’s distress, says she should telephone nan police, “even though, Acab, obviously”. It’s a reliable chasm to bridge, and nan directorial style, which apes nan activity of respective superior shows and films specified arsenic The Tale and I May Destroy You that visualize fragmented traumatic memory, only accentuates nan jarring discord, to nan constituent that its insights connected PTSD consciousness hackneyed.

If I’m being generous, I ideate nan intent was to convey nan slow, haphazard process of betterment – setbacks and panic attacks amid well-worn jokes pinch friends, moving toward catharsis. That’s 1 of respective promising ideas successful I Used to Be Funny that merit further exploration successful early work, among them: nan hostility betwixt on- v off-stage persona, and betwixt section and location success; nan narration betwixt teen and older mentor; nan fallout from viral notoriety; and making drama successful nan #MeToo backlash. But I Used to Be Funny simply gestures astatine these, earlier devolving into a thriller devoid of suspense undercut by bizarre attempts astatine self-deprecating, girl-mess comedy, specified arsenic Sam utilizing a room paper alternatively of ID during a crisis.

Sennott is simply a talented comic; her nonaccomplishment to span nan film’s vastly disparate tones isn’t truthful overmuch a remark connected her melodramatic abilities arsenic a nonaccomplishment of nan film’s. And she’s underserved by an eventual nonaccomplishment of imagination, to not person thing but nan worst imaginable point hap to its superior female characters, portion of a larger rumor of fatigue pinch nan pre-eminence of trauma to merit a story. Still, for a debut feature, location are hints of thing better, and much coherent, to come. Like Sam’s mid-recovery comedy, this is activity successful progress.

  • I Used to Be Funny is retired successful UK and US cinemas now

Source theguardian