Friday, May 27

When You’re Done Saving The World: Jesse Eisenberg’s Uneven Directorial Debut | Sundance 2022

TOThus, Sundance 2022 begins with the curtain opened by Jesse Eisenberg, an actor who has long been associated with the festival, with films such as The Squid and the Whale, Adventureland, Holy Rollers, The End of the Tour and Wild Indian from last year. premiere His on-screen personality (nervous, insecure, fast-talking, smart) made him an ideal poster child not only for Sundance but for the indie scene in general, a writer’s schtick became so believable on screen that it seemed inevitable that it would soon go back. that.

He went from writing short stories to writing plays and is now writing and directing his first film, the regular festival opener When You Finish Saving the World, based on his 2020 audio drama. Eisenberg does not star, but has cast Stranger Things. . ‘ Finn Wolfhard to play the role, the actor doing a successful cover version without leaning towards cheap impersonation. He is Ziggy, a high school student who dedicates his time to his music, which he broadcasts live to an audience of over 20,000 people around the world, a number he is infinitely proud of. His mother Evelyn (Julianne Moore) is less impressed, her time focused on the nobler act of running a shelter for victims of domestic abuse.

As the two drift further and further away from each other, they both try to find ways to replace a love that has turned sour. Ziggy congratulates himself on the most political chapter in school, motivated by a crush on his classmate Lila (13 Reasons Why star Alisha Boe), while Evelyn tries to redirect her maternal instincts towards Kyle (Billy Bryk), a teenager who moved into the shelter with her mother.

What drives them both towards these new activities is not just the need to replace some heat that gets cold in the house, but to feel that they are doing something. good and through that process they can then become good people.

Eisenberg isn’t trying to insist that this is the movie we need right now (thank goodness) and his characters don’t directly address the details of the moment we live in (it’s a movie shot by Covid that thankfully doesn’t exist in a world affected by Covid), but after two years of all of us descending further into an uncontrollable form of global hell, it’s hard not to see additional resonance in the quest for its characters. Who hasn’t put in a little extra effort lately to feel like they’re helping, whether it’s on a micro or macro level, whether they’re accomplishing anything or not?

What Eisenberg’s script quickly realizes is that there really is no such thing as a selfless act, that helping others is often a way of helping ourselves. Ziggy’s ignorant callousness can perhaps be attributed to his youthful naivety (his excitement about singing political songs is equal to his excitement about the money it brings him), while Evelyn’s unhealthy obsession with Kyle is mainly due to a need to feel needy.

Eisenberg pokes fun at the family’s muffled liberalism (a table that allows a father to lecture his son on cultural appropriation of the blues and a son to tell his father to shut up without consequence) and the safe pocket of the Midwest that live, but never with the specific, unrelenting sharpness that, shall we say, Noah Baumbach (a writer-director whose shadow hangs over the project) would have brought. It’s a movie about people telling themselves they’re making a difference without doing much of anything, and it’s hard not to feel equally impassive when it’s all over.

The tense mother-son dynamic feels awkward and believable (two difficult people struggling to move out of the all-too-comfortable roles they’ve grown up in), and Moore and Wolfhard certainly give it their all, but some additional texture of who these are is missing. People really are and in the film’s brief 87-minute runtime, the heavy lifting of Emile Mosseri’s score is allowed to bring some real weight. The ending is particularly rushed and frustrating, as if we were tricked into thinking it was a novel but it was really just a short story.

As a first-time director, Eisenberg is at least refreshingly restrained and avoids gimmicks (this is not no looks like an A24-funded debut film), but as a writer with some experience, albeit on stage and on page, he feels a bit anemic. A rocky start.

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