What the fuck is wrong with people?
That question, which feels more pressing by the day, is at the ruefully dark heart of Macon Blair’s “I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.” a hysterical and hyper-violent morality play for our fucked-up times. “Everyone is an asshole!” screams Ruth (the spectacular Melanie Lynskey), and she makes a pretty good point. A voice on the radio barks reports of another mass shooting. A truck in front of her pumps jet black exhaust straight into the air. Some jerk cuts her line at the grocery store. It’s like the rest of society held a secret meeting where they decided to spend the rest of their lives shitting on anyone who wasn’t invited, like every stranger she meets is just trying to screw her over. Ruth works at a hospital as a nursing assistant, and one of her patients — a bedridden old woman — puts its best: “Keep your gigantic monkey dick out of my good pussy.”
And then she immediately dies. No wonder Ruth is on so many anti-depressants. Anti-depressants that are stolen from her house during a daytime robbery that also deprives her of her laptop and her grandmother’s silver. The cop that comes by to check out the scene? All he wants to do is whine about how his wife is leaving him. That’s it. Ruth has had enough. With the help of a find-a-phone app and Tony (Elijah Wood), the rat-tailed, karate-obsessed neighbor whose dog loves to shit in Ruth’s yard, our fed up — but squeamish and unfailingly kind — protagonist decides to take matters into her own hands.
If “I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.” (which takes its title from an old Jim Reeves tune, gives it a colloquial tweak, and adds a period for emphasis), is too sure of itself to feel like a first film, that probably has something to do with the fact that Blair has been making movies with “Green Room” director Jeremy Saulnier for as long as the childhood friends have been alive. Blair would stand in front of the camera, his blank expression a perfect canvas for any number of sins, and Saulnier would sit behind it. But watching Blair’s directorial debut, it’s clear that the actor was so much more than his buddy’s muse.
Part “Green Room” and part “Raising Arizona,” the movie takes the visually terse mode of vigilantism that Blair and Saulnier have already perfected and lowers the stakes just enough so that the same notes can be played for occasional belly laughs. Displaying the same command of tone that defined the likes of “Blue Ruin,” Blair is careful not to let the story sink into parody — it barely even registers as satire — but he has a great deal of fun anchoring a story like this to two characters who have absolutely no business being around this much blood.
Given how much she projectile vomits at the sight of blood, Ruth probably isn’t the world’s greatest nursing assistant, but her haplessness makes her a terrific heroine. Lynskey is ideal — as HBO’s short-lived “Togetherness” proved so well, there is no actress alive who’s so good at threading the needle between everyday anxiety and righteous conviction. Wood is a great foil for her — hardly the intense psychopath that he initially appears, Tony is just a friendless kook who wears a ninja star as a belt buckle (and will throw it at every available opportunity). Watching his dweebiness blossom into its full glory is one of the film’s finest pleasures, the process allowing for some delightful carnage and the funniest hacking scene there ever was. While the villains that Blair cooks up for these characters are underwhelming by comparison, the director’s keen eye for casting weirdos and low-rent monsters is on par with the Coen brothers’.
“I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.” is at its best when it sticks to the thesis that it lays out in its opening minutes and sporadically revisits throughout. Quoth one particularly unfortunate character: “Anyone can do anything if you let them. Welcome to the world.” When firing on all cylinders during its first half, Blair’s canny script doesn’t just rub our faces in that point, it questions how a decent person can possibly fight back without becoming part of the problem.
When the rest of the world goes lower, Ruth goes lower. But instead of following this idea down the rabbit hole, Blair gets sidetracked by all the fun he’s having — instead of building the giddily anarchic third act around the frustrations that got Ruth into this mess in the first place, the film follows a chase scene into the woods and lets her story peter out with a shrugged off suggestion that friendship will see us through.
The film never loses its strong sense of character, but those characters deserve a bit more love than they’re afforded. Still, Lynskey and Wood see it through. But one look between these platonic avengers — their friendship forged by frustration — and it’s clear that while the world may be fucked, it’s ours to make of it what we will.
“I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.” premiered in the U.S. Dramatic Competition of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. It will be available on Netflix on February 24th.