Film Review: Take Me

A quirky comedy about power and fantasy role-play, 'Take Me''s loopy premise fuels an off-kilter character study.
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Take Me opens with mild-mannered Ray Moody (Pat Healy, who also directed), proud wearer of an epically awful toupee, failing to secure a business-expansion loan…in fact, by the time he's finished his clumsy, long-winded pitch for Kidnap Solutions LLC, it's a wonder the loan officer hasn't called the police, despite his calm insistence that he only kidnaps people who want to be abducted. People like chubby Stuart, who really wants to adopt a healthier diet and just needs a motivational boost laced with some DIY aversion therapy. Say, spending eight hours tied up in a basement being force-fed fast-food burgers until he vomits. Things did go wrong once, Ray admits, but what's one failure compared to dozens of satisfied clients?

Except, of course, that business is so bad that Ray's been reduced to borrowing surreptitiously from his brother-in-law and of course gets caught by his disapproving sister because he's actually paying him back: The poor guy just can't win, so the call from sultry-voiced Anna St. Blair (Taylor Schilling), a chic, successful businesswoman looking for a kinky thrill, couldn't have come at a better time. Ray has some reservations about the gig—Anna indicates that part of her fantasy involves being slapped around and that's too close to real violence for his taste—but she's willing to pay handsomely for a full weekend of Ray's services. So he agrees and implements "a classic scenario" he likes to call "The Schwentke File," which adds a touch of imaginary corporate espionage to the standard abduction. Of course, things don't go as expected.

There's a healthy dollop of Mark Twain's "The Ransom of Red Chief" in Mike Makowsky's script, along with a hint of Fargo and David Fincher's The Game, and nutty though Take Me's premise sounds, paying to be fake-kidnapped is really no weirder than paying to be flogged by a girl in a sexy French maid costume. It is funnier, though, in a droll, low-key way, and a terrific showcase for longtime character actor Healy and “Orange Is the New Black” star Schilling. Comedy thrillers are a notoriously tough balancing act and Healy—a first-time feature director—pulls it off by consistently underselling the comedy and letting the prickly, ever-shifting relationship between Ray and Anna take center stage. And kudos to composer Heather McIntosh, whose jaunty score is just light enough without being farcical.

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