Adam Scott & Taylor Schilling are fresh from Seattle into a trendy neighborhood in LA (“We really should have labeled these boxes,” Schilling moans, “Why do we have so much stuff?”) and a local couple, Jason Schwartzman & Judith Godreche, invite them over for a welcome to the neighborhood dinner. But as the night goes on, these eminently friendly, almost too perfect folks start to seem a little . . . weird to the new couple. This isn’t, I should say, a horror movie; Brice’s last film was, but this one is one of those awkward, cringe-inducing indie comedies. The first forty-five minutes or so are really quite good, sharply written and featuring funny performances from all four of the main characters, especially Schilling as she attempts to figure out if these people are weird or if it’s just, you know, California. There are a lot of laughs and a lot of embarrassing moments, often exactly the same moment. At about the forty-five minute mark or so, the film reaches a new level of creepy and strange and, unfortunately, the movie, despite nailing that really creepy moment, starts to unwind after that scene. The film attempts to change to a kind of drama, but, while Schilling and Scott have seemed very human to this point, Schwartzman & Godreche have achieved a level a little too weird, not to say cartoonish, for us to suddenly start buying into their secret pains, if you get me. There’s one really great scene near the end, and I was shocked to suddenly find some genuine humanity spilling over even from Schwartzman & Godreche. But then the film climaxes with a really cheap gag and it actually kind of made me angry. It was a slog in that last half or so, but then the film really does kind of reach a place of quite striking emotion. At which point, it feels like the director just flips you the finger and says, “But, eh, who gives a ****?” It’s a really cheap and insulting way to end the climactic scene. It just feels like maybe Brice just isn’t quite able to really pull off the tonal shifts he would like to. Still, the film has pleasures. The first half is smart and satirical and the performances are generally quite good (and it’s always a pleasure to watch Schwartzman & Scott work) with Schilling, in particular giving a genuinely extraordinary performance in many ways. I’ve really got to start watching Orange is the New Black, based on this. I mean, I guess it’s your call; I’m not particularly comfortable recommending a movie this flawed or recommending against a movie with this much good stuff. 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – indie cringe-comedy has a strong first half with a quartet of solid performances, but it loses its way in the end, ultimately resolving in an insulting and lazy climax. 2 ½ stars.