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UK title: Safe Spaces
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Daniel Schechter
prd Lawrence Greenberg, Courtenay Johnson, Jordan Kessler
with Justin Long, Kate Berlant, Lynn Cohen, Michael Godere, Fran Drescher, Richard Schiff, Silvia Morigi, Camrus Johnson, Dana Eskelson, Becky Ann Baker, Samrat Chakrabarti, Schann Mobley
release US 6.Dec.19,
With a bunch of fast-talking characters, this comedy-drama is bursting with snappy, high-energy interaction. Indeed, none of these vivid characters seem to know how to shift into a slower gear. As this smart, observant film unpicks their relationships and taps into provocative themes, writer-director Daniel Schechter is making knowing comments on the current atmosphere in which everyone seems over-sensitive to anything that's even slightly uncomfortable.
Writing professor Josh (Long) is trying to connect with his students by pushing them in provocative directions, which gets him in trouble with his boss (Baker). But he's also distracted because his grandmother (Cohen) is in hospital, which brings together his restlessly independent family members. His sister Jackie (Berlant) essentially moves in with him and his rather too-abrupt girlfriend Cat (Morigi) as she records her topical podcast. And then there's their workaholic brother David (Godere), who is trying to ignore the separately messy lives of their divorced parents (Schiff and Drescher).
The film is loud and fairly relentless, with a continual stream of prickly clashes between Josh's often outrageously opinionated loved ones. The dialog never stops for a second, and these are dense, pointed, often heated conversations. For a movie this brash and rambunctious, it's remarkably even-handed about the huge issues it raises. Although perhaps there are too many issues gurgling around in here, as people never seem capable of doing anything aside from talking. They certainly don't listen to each other very well.
Long is a likeable everyman in the central role, a failed playwright struggling against the repercussions of what he thought was just a way to challenge his students. Every relationship Josh has is strained in some way, and Long gives his crippling anxiety an earnest variation on Woody Allen-style neuroses. Josh doesn't understand why he needs to apologise when he hasn't done anything wrong. Each of the other characters has his or her own issues to deal with, which overflow into their interaction with Josh, adding rich textures to his story.
Without indulging in millennial hand-wringing, Schechter knowingly addresses how ideas can make us feel unsafe, rippling out to trigger insecurities in the most unexpected places. This highlights both the gap between generations and also the way everything is the same, even if we express if differently. Yes, there's a lot of confrontational shouting in this movie, but each conversation is punctuated with important comments. As one student says when an adult tries too hard to be understanding, "We don't need your hashtag."
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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