Writer/director Pat Mills follows up his 2015 comedy Guidance with the equally hilarious Don’t Talk to Irene. However, his latest flick is certainly cut from a quirkier cloth, but that doesn’t make it any less sarcastic. It’s certainly one of the funniest films of the year.
Irene Willis (Michelle McLeod in a fabulous breakout) has been isolated from peers and the Internet by her Mom (Anastasia Phillips) for fears of cyberbullying and other forms of teasing. It’s an assumption that Irene doesn’t feel applies to her confident personality as she strives to become a cheerleader. Her innocence, however, gets her in trouble with a couple of mean kids, resulting in a suspension served volunteering at a retirement home. But, as the whip-smart firecracker usually does, Irene makes lemonade out of lemons as she recruits residents for some amateur choreography.
It’s a cutesy premise that could be taken in a homely direction under the vision of a filmmaker-for-hire who likes to play things safe. Mills, who amusingly appears in a familiar cameo as a flask-nursing teacher, isn’t afraid of his movie wandering into indecent areas for genuine emotions; even if that means characters being impolite or extremely vulgar. These reactions fit within this world of loose boundaries, and Mills is never shocking his audience for the sake of a cheap laugh. It’s also interesting to receive a film that acknowledges signs of agism between spoiled teenagers and bitter seniors, and reassuringly dissolves that tension with the power of comedy. It’s a movie that literally features young and old people dancing side-by-side, and nothing about it is cloying or sappy. In fact, my face hurt from smiling so much.
Viewers will be reminded of the underdog intent of Bruce McCulloch’s cult hit Superstar (another film that features an unpopular teen finding her own ways to stand out amongst the crowd), but Don’t Talk to Irene finds its own ways to “pop”. Oh, and I won’t spoil the “secret weapon”. Let’s just say it’s in a league of its own.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie