Macon Blair’s directorial debut film “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore” is a funny, intelligent and satisfyingly violent movie that showcases his talent for direction. It pays homage to some of the great directors of this generation but never feels like a rip-off or imitation.
From its title, people might easily mistake “I Don’t Feel At Home” for a tale of existential musings. This is not entirely incorrect — existentialism is a recurring theme throughout the film. After being robbed, protagonist Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) repeatedly wonders why people can’t just treat each other decently. But in response, she only receives the sneers of cynics who cannot take her seriously.
However, the film contains several plot twists that viewers won’t anticipate. When Ruth asks Tony (Elijah Wood), a man of faith with anger management issues, to help her reclaim her stolen items, they follow strange leads and meet even stranger people in an almost absurd scenario that is more than a little reminiscent of the “The Big Lebowski.” The Coen brothers are not the only directors whose influence is evident in the plot and cinematography — “I Don’t Feel At Home” culminates in a sequence that is as violent yet carefully orchestrated as a scene from a Tarantino movie.
Other directors’ influences in the film may be clear, but Blair deserves credit for the final product. His style — falling somewhere in between the laid-back “Lebowski” and the dark, violent films of Tarantino — is his own.
Superb acting and Blair’s skillful direction combine to keep the film entertaining throughout. Lynskey and Wood are excellent as Melanie and Tony, and the supporting cast — which includes David Yow, Jane Levy, Devon Graye and Gary Anthony Williams — drives the movie in unexpected directions. The actors interpret their characters in fresh, playful ways.
Yet the movie never feels lighthearted. Despite the insignificance of Ruth’s problems in the grand scheme of things, each supposedly petty obstacle feels extremely important. The film successfully draws viewers into her experience of recovering the stolen items. Towards the end, the stakes get very high, making the otherwise steadily paced movie feel intense.
Blair makes a successful directorial debut that will impress viewers. A blend of old and new, “I Don’t Feel At Home” stands out as a unique work in its own right while still honoring the directors who influenced it.
“I Don’t Feel At Home Anymore” will be available for the first time on Netflix on Feb. 24.
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