It’s a Disaster: Won’t Somebody Please Save Julia Stiles?

It’s a Disaster

Opens Fri., April 26 at SIFF Film Center, then moves to SIFF Cinema Uptown on Mon., April 29. Rated R. 88 minutes.

Julia Stiles is one of those talented young actresses who burst onto the scene in the late ’90s. At 18, she glowed in the Shakespearean teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), but since then she’s been reduced to supporting roles (Silver Linings Playbook and a couple Bourne movies). So sharp, likable, and natural as an actress, she deserves better—like the role of Tracy in Todd Berger’s apocalyptic new comedy.

It all starts innocuously, as Tracy, a doctor, takes her new boyfriend Glen (a surprisingly subdued David Cross) to a regular couples’ brunch at a friend’s house. Unfortunately, the ensemble cast is the real disaster here. The outing is supposedly Tracy and Glen’s third date, but Stiles and Cross have little to no chemistry. Nor do their half-dozen brunch companions show much friendship. And you can’t blame them, because they’re all extremely annoying people—for example, Lexi’s a picky, pushy vegan/musician; she and her husband, with a lightning-bolt tattoo on his bicep, boast of spending the prior evening with “the white lady.” The table’s set for a classic, tired battle of the sexes: The three girls talk about vintage purses, while the guys are clamoring to go check out the game. “Glen, you better go, it’s gonna get all vaginal in here,” says Lexi. Ugh.

The afternoon’s interrupted by a power outage and then a neighbor (Berger) in a haz-mat suit, who informs them that all the major cities of the world have been bombed and that destruction is nigh. Was it aliens? Iranians? North Koreans? Berger doesn’t care. He just packs in comic details that are too clichéd to be funny: A neighbor’s offended he wasn’t invited to the party; a toilet handle needs to be jiggled; jokes about the guy who still has a landline, about Adderall, etc. Tracy is the funniest character by far, mainly because she’s so disdainful of her friends. 

By the time Glen finally reveals a little depth, only 10 minutes are left in the film. His Hyde-to-Jekyll transformation is hilariously unexpected, and it leads to a tense, genuinely funny ending. But it’s too little, too late. For viewers, the question is less “Will they all die?” than “Would I really mind if they did?”

film@seattleweekly.com

 
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