Quick Synopsis: Val (Jerrod Carmichael) and Kevin (Christopher Abbot) are two friends on a mission: have one last good day before killing themselves.
This is a unique film. I sent a few people the trailer for this and the responses varied from “are you sure you didn’t write it?” and “that’s very concerning. are you okay?”. It’s something which is going to be off-putting for a lot of people. It’s an acquired taste, and one that a lot of people won’t like. Personally, I loved it, and a large part of that was the dialogue. That’s what I’m going to base this review around, the dialogue. Here goes:
“I didn’t know I had to set a Save The Date for a double suicide”/“I’m not listening to Papa fucking Roach on the day I commit suicide”
Kicking off with a big one. Yup, this is about two people planning a double suicide (which is a good number of people to have if you are planning it: one is not enough, three is too many, and fifty-six is just silly). None of this would work if the relationship between the main two wasn’t believable. I’m not that familiar with the work of either of the two performers, but they make a natural double act. They bounce off each other so well that it feels like they’ve been performing together for years, but (judging by the IMDB credits anyway) this is the first thing they’ve starred in together. They will also be in Yorgos Lanthimos’s (best known for The Favourite, The Lobster, and The Killing Of A Sacred Deer) Poor Things; alongside Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, and Mark Ruffalo. If a studio had any brains they’d sign those two guys up and get them to lead an action franchise together.
“if the guests can’t follow the rules then visitation rights will be revoked”
That’s a much more important line than you’ll think. It’s delivered by someone in the facility Kevin is in after he attempts suicide. It demonstrates that it’s not really about caring for the people in the facility. If you have a heavily suicidal person, you don’t threaten to cut off their connection to the outside world. You don’t threaten to isolate them from their friends just because their friends decided to smoke. That’s shitty behaviour and is the kind of “rules are more important than results” bullshit that leads to increased suicides and ineffectual “well we did what we could” platitudes from people who in reality did nothing. That’s very early on in the film, so it sets up how seriously this film takes the subject. It doesn’t hide away from the dark reality of not just having it, but how other people deal with you when you have it.
“not waking up tomorrow is the most beautiful thought I’ve had in a long time”
On the subject of beauty, there are some beautiful shots here. Jerrod Carmicheal does a fantastic job of making ordinary shots look good. It’s not quite at “oh my god these are the most beautiful visuals I’ve seen” levels, but there is a dark elegance to the normality he portrays. He’s mainly known for acting, playing a semi-fictionalised version of himself in The Carmichael Show, which I’ve yet to see but I’ve heard is absolutely astounding in how it tackles some of the issues, especially the Bill Cosby controversy. His directing has mainly been documentaries and stand up specials. Those have been enough that even without this film you’d know to keep an eye on his future. For example, Drew Michael was an incredibly unique way of shooting a stand up special, so made clear to everyone how creative Carmichael can be. While he is a great performer, I’m much more interested in what he brings to the table as a director in the future.
“You just tried to kill yourself three days ago don’t tell me suicide is not the answer”
That made me laugh, so much. As did a lot of lines in this. While it is about depression, it does still make you laugh, but never about the situation, you laugh at the characters. It’s really difficult to a film about a subject like this, and not have it offend people. It’s a really tricky line to walk, to make a comedy like this, and not have it feel like it’s exploiting the situation. This walks that line brilliantly and is a testament to the very clever script.
“good times, nice to see you”
Said by a former bully of the main characters. The “good times” he’s referring to by the way, are when he ran Kevin over in his truck, causing him to undergo physical therapy for a year. It’s brutal, but is also kind of honest in how people like that never see themselves accurately. They see what they did at school to people as funny and just something that happened, they don’t see the horrific impact it has on peoples lives. Just shows that the script knows what it’s like to live that life.
“that unhappiness, it’s a good thing, it will push you”
Usually, this is portrayed genuinely, the myth that depression is good because it can be used as a motivating tool for artists. You don’t need happiness, you don’t need enough money to pay your bills, just stay miserable and poor. It’s good that this film has that line be said by a character who is an abusive prick, but who is also rich. The character who says it? Henry Winkler, a.k.a The Fonz. He’s in it, as are other big names like JB Smooth and Tiffany Haddish, but not much. This is mainly about the two leads, somewhat to their detriment. It would have been nice to pull away from them once just to see how people are reacting to them. Because the focus is so small that it feels like a small-time story, and to go from that to the ending is a huge shift.
“guns are crazy, how are these legal?”
This is such an American film. From the way that it treats mental illness, to how easily they can get guns. This wouldn’t work as well in another country. Especially at the end when Val is in prison. That’s my negative for this film, the closing third feels a bit too much like a story someone has written in class. All feels a bit too fake compared to the grounded nature of the rest of the film. Him being in jail at the end also doesn’t answer some questions, did he actually get jailed for the murders? Or was he just charged as an accessory? That changes everything. Yes, it does seem like he’s happier now than he was. But him being locked for a few years while his child grows up is a very different ending than him being away for decades. I get why it ended like that, to show the irony that he was free and miserable, but now he’s locked up but happy.
“When a customer is talking, you listen bro, it hurts to be ignored”
And there it is. What this film is. Frustration. Frustration with yourself, frustration with your past, frustration with your lack of future. So while it is funny, and it is sad at times, really the emotion I’m most left with from this story is pain. It’s incredibly real, and if you have ever been in a place to recognise that reality, this film will speak to you like few others will.
So in summary I’d say you should watch this. It’s not among the best films I’ve seen, but it is definitely the most “me”.