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IZZY GETS THE F*CK ACROSS TOWN (2018) review

June 22, 2018

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written by: Christian Papierniak
produced by: Mackenzie Davis, Meghan Lennox, Melissa Panzer & Christian Papierniak
directed by: Christian Papierniak
rated: not rated
runtime: 86 min.
U.S. release date: June 22, 2018 (limited)

 

Did the title catch your attention? Well, that’s the idea. If you took a swig of ale every time you hear the F-word while watching “Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town”, you’d need an anti-hangover concoction before the end credits role. The dizzying comedy is the feature-length debut for writer/director Christian Papierniak and its kinetic tone and acerbic humor is infectious, but its Mackenzie Davis who is absolutely contagious. If the title gets viewers to see this talented, charismatic actress own and run away with her first lead role, well then they’re in for a treat.

Oh, it’s not a perfect film – but it’s got a fantastic cast, a manic energy and some fun character moments. I’d love to pick Papierniak’s brain and figure out the origin of this story.  It’s kind of uncanny how he’s able to fully realize such a vivid atmosphere of screw-ups, oddballs and resentful ne’er-do-wells that surround the alcoholic, chain-smoking and self-destructive main character, in such a simple story. As storylines go, it’s pretty simple, which is why you’ll be surprised how following one complex character – who is so easily to like and dislike at the same time – can be so rewarding. You may not want to admit that you can relate to her, but it’s the truth, nevertheless.

 

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Disheveled with a splitting headache, Izzy (Davis) wakes up one bright Los Angeles morning with a raging hangover in an unknown apartment next to a mostly naked guy she doesn’t know. We don’t know how she got there and neither does she, but it’s clear she’s been in this situation before. Just within these first few minutes of the film’s opening, Davis can be seen working out the nuance’s of her character’s situation without working up a sweat. As she gathers her clothing, which includes a blood-stained (maybe some wine too) white caterer’s jacket, her curiosity leads her to awaken the guy in bed. She learns he’s George (LaKeith Stanfield) and that they are in Santa Monica and that he’s probably more surprised than she is to learn of their situation. She is however surprised to learn that he’s an avid reader and a full-time helicopter pilot. We get the idea she’s surprised to find someone who has their life on straight a little more tightly than she ever thinks she could.

Izzy tries to get her bearings by checking for texts and swiping through social media, which is how she learns that her ex-boyfriend, Roger (Alex Russell) is throwing an engagement party later that night in Los Feliz. This unexpected news sets her off – figuratively and literally – and Izzy begins her manic journey from Santa Monica to Los Feliz, despite not having a dime to her name, a drivable vehicle or anyone who can help her out. Her delusional goal, one that is blinded by unreciprocated love, is to crash the party and somehow wind up back in the arms of Roger.

This is where “Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town” turns into an infectious Point A to Point B movie, where the resilient and pathetic title character drives, rides, pedals and scoots her way across town. Along the way, she encounters some people she knows and bumps into others she’s never met before during some deliberate stops and unplanned detours. We learn a little more about Izzy with each stop – like how she’s used to lie her way out of situations (which doesn’t always work) and some people manage to pull her into their world longer than she planned – and in the process she grows on us and we hope she can get her act together.

 

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It’s during this unpredictable journey where we meet a variety of supporting characters that enrich the film, because honestly if it was just Izzy it’d be kind of overwhelming. Her first stop is to her deadbeat mechanic, Dick (Brandon T. Jackson), who offers her a beer and some raw eggs for some reason. Too bad he’s not finished repairing her car. She pays  a visit to Walt (Haley Joel Osment), a shut-in dealing with the aftermath of a Tinder encounter from the night before.

With each stop, we see another layer of Izzy peel away, providing us with a broader view of who she and observing what she’s capable of, even if she herself doesn’t see it. There’ a somewhat of a benevolent side to Izzy in her interaction with both Dick and Walt. Although she’s trying to get something out of both visits, she winds up looking out for both of these kindred spirits. When she realizes a woman who wanders Dick’s neighborhood, someone he habitually admires from afar, is not at all what he has fantasized, she nevertheless keeps it to herself and motions a thumbs up, knowing the truth would squash his vision. Walt pays Izzy to conjure a romantic speech that can be recited to Agatha (Alia Shawkat), the date who’s passed out on the couch, and what she shares contains raw vulnerability and openness that could easily be seen as a form of catharsis. It’s an eye-opening moment for Walt, who couldn’t possibly arrive at putting such feelings to words on his own. These characters may be sidetracking Izzy, but the small (and often subconscious) ways in which she helps others starts to add up and at the time these encounters will soon enough help her to figure out some things about herself.

Another unexpected stop is at the home of Mary (Annie Potts), a Miracle Mile shut-in (yes, another one), who pulls Izzy into her sad world of unhappy neediness. It’s the only location where Christmas decorations are up, which leads us to believe this delicate character may be the only one celebrating the holiday. This may be the one brief encounter which seems frivolous, yet it’s hard to deny there is a tender connection (or realization) between the two characters.

 

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The most revealing and personal pit stop is when Izzy visits her estranged sister, Virginia (Carrie Coon), which winds out being one of the standout moments of the film. Izzy happens to be stopping in on a little get together Virginia and her husband are throwing and when everyone else sees the two of them together they ask the two of them to play a song. This is when we put together some of what’s been previously hinted at and that’s how Izzy and Virginia used to be an indie rock band, the height of which found them playing at SXSW not to long ago. Not so much since then, likely due to Izzy’s unpredictability. As the duo perform their song (a cover of Heavens to Betsy’s “Axemen”), Davis and Coon subtly navigate from tentative to reluctant appreciation for each other, playing out like a brief history of their backstory all in one song neither of them wanted to play. It’s a great scene from two great actors.

I’m reluctant to say where “Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town” goes front there, except to say that there’s more amazing work from Davis to be found. If you’re unfamiliar with the actress, you’re in for a real treat. If you caught her in a bit part in last year’s “Blade Runner 2049” and in the recent “Tully” and noticed how she stood out, you’ll be pleased by what Davis offers here. If you know her solely from her work on “Halt and Catch Fire” (a show I have not caught up with, but now that I know she’s in it, that seals it) than you probably know how great she is.

Her emotional gamut as Izzy is one of the bravura performances of the year. It’s a tough character to portray, in that we’re encouraged to feel and go along with the pain she feel and inflicts. Regardless of her character’s disposition or likeability and how flakey and incorrigible she is, Davis oozes charisma and is thoroughly enjoyable to watch on-screen. Her last scene, which finds cinematographer Alexandre Naufel’s (“Hal”) camera in front of Davis as Izzy walks down a sidewalk, is something I wanted to replay on a loop, just to experience the range of emotions over and over again. It’s one of a handful of scenes that also echo Mike Nichol’s classic “The Graduate”.

As for Paperniak, I’m officially interested in anything else the writer/director has in the works. His screenplay sort of resembles Henry Winkler’s recent “Flower”, in that it follows a young women on a tailspin, although “Izzy” doesn’t take the dark turns that film does, but he manages to defly balances some tricky tones here. His direction is crazy  and exciting – inserting howling bursts of heard-hitting songs from Heaven’s to Betsy and Pure Bathing Culture – using chapter title cards and jittery shots throughout Izzy’s day-long misadventure. I’m still uncertain a crucial element of the third act really worked for me, but the rest of the film and the final moments pay off and are entirely worth it.

 

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RATING: ***

 

 

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