Film Review: Izzy Gets the F*ck Across TownA terrific performance by Mackenzie Davis elevates this indie comedy.
Fate, time and the Stories We Tell Ourselves in Order to Live are the grand themes with which Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town is preoccupied. Sometimes cleverly funny, sometimes disappointingly clunky, Izzy winds up a winner, thanks to a strong ending and a righteous, go-for-broke Mackenzie Davis (Tully).
With the possible exception of garbage left out in the summer, messes do not come much hotter than Izzy (Davis): waking up in a stranger’s bed, her catering outfit from last night’s gig stained with red wine, a hangover to beat the band. While scrolling through her social-media feeds after leaving the aforementioned stranger (an attractive and well-read helicopter pilot played by “Atlanta”’s Lakeith Stanfield), Izzy reads a post that makes her totally lose her s***. Apparently, her ex-boyfriend Roger—who is not, by the way, a helicopter pilot—is engaged to her ex-best friend Whitney, and their engagement party is tonight. All the way across town. Izzy, convinced she’s still in love with Roger, decides to crash the event and try to win him back. But with her car in the shop, and lacking the funds as well as the desire to take the bus (which, apparently, no one does in L.A.), Izzy must hit up reluctant friends, estranged family and complete strangers as she strives to “get the F” across town.
Writer-director Christian Papierniak has filmed his hero’s journeywith a rock ’n’ roll vibe: Flashy title cards shown with bursts of rock music provide chapter headings to each of Izzy’s encounters, as well as helpful countdowns to the engagement party. These interstitials are in keeping with Izzy’s riot-grrrl ethos, in addition to being fun, bombastic, stylistic additions to the film. Izzy’s story is at its best when it’s maintaining this sense of fun, even when the fun turns dark, and not taking itself too seriously. When, for instance, Izzy shouts pithy insults at those who dare challenge the validity of her quest or tell her a hard truth, or when a socially awkward “friend” whose help Izzy solicits turns out to be a guy for whom she routinely does errands on Task Rabbit (Haley Joel Osment). There’s a real energy to the film and, at times, the fleet air of a party that’s flying by.
Where Izzy falls short is in its on-the-nose dialogue concerning the nature of fate, free will and the lies we willfully repeat to ourselves until we believe them. Throughout the film, characters reveal to Izzy what they believe or hope to be true about someone else, only for Izzy to find, via something the someone else says or does, how wrong the characters have been. This approach, a dramatization of the movie’s “the-stories-we-tell-ourselves” conceit, works well. It’s funny and sad and seems to logically arise from the characters’ personalities, for the most part.
Unfortunately, Papierniak is not content to leave it at that. He must also have his characters talk, and talk, and talk about the themes he’s illustrating, not to mention having Izzy dream about an older woman and her younger self, both of whom also talk about the themes he’s illustrating. Izzy’s dream sequences are filmed in psychedelic purple tones that echo the rock style of the title cards, but lack the cards’ anarchic levity. Ideas too often lose their heft, their impact, to say nothing of their profundity, when the effort is made to speak of them directly. Such is the case with Izzy, whose ambitions are halfway successful: The film both cleverly dramatizes its Big Ideas and clunkily undercuts them through talk.
But all faults are nearly redeemed through the phenomenal performance of Davis. She’s a tremendous physical actress, which you get straightaway, as she curls and achingly twists out of the pilot’s bed, as she creeps about collecting her discarded clothes on his bedroom floor, even as—particularly as—she sits hunched over on his toilet and pees a good, post-drunk pee. Davis seems to be made of elastic, from her expressive brow down, and to understand how to stretch herself into a character’s body. Her emotional range is no less expansive, and when she stares, hurt, because someone has disappointed her, or because she’s disappointed herself, you believe her, hook, line and sinking stomach.
As if that weren’t enough, turns out she’s a talented musician, too. Izzy is worth seeking out when it’s released online so you can re-watch the scene in which Izzy and her sister Virginia (a very good Carrie Coon) briefly reunite their erstwhile sister band to perform a killer acoustic-guitar rendition of a punk song that Papierniak must also be commended for filming—switching from one sister’s face to the other’s as they go from ignoring each other to singing at each other—so effectively.
He must also be lauded for ending his film on just the right note, not an easy thing to do after so much buildup. Although uneven, both its conclusion and its hero make Izzy Gets The F*ck Across Town a journey worth taking.
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