You’ve heard of an intervention. But, have you heard of a “life intervention”? I hope you haven’t. If you have, I sure hope it wasn’t under the guidance of a similar core clique as seen in Unfriending.
A tight group of friends host a dinner party and anticipate the arrival of their pal Isaac (Alex Stone). While they wait, they ruminate and rehearse the plan that has brought them together (unbeknownst to Issac): to convince their naive buddy that the best choice for him at this juncture in life is to commit suicide. Is Issac sick? Does he owe a king’s ransom to a gang of angry bookies? Nope. He’s simply perceived as pathetic to his alleged friends, and they see no hope for his future.
Unfriending is a sardonic comedy of manners, purposely stilted to make the conniving characters believe what they’re doing is the right thing. The gang’s self-appointed leader, Blake (Sean Meldrum), has lots of ideas and a short fuse, while the followers (Simone Jetsun, Rachelle Lauzon, Michael Pearson, Honor Spencer, Jenna Vittoria) enthusiastically pat themselves on the back. The movie is determined to poke fun at passive behaviour by people who are too distracted by their own self-importance or pretentious intellect – from personal opinions about the fate of Issac to pop culture references they’re convinced are only in-jokes for them. While the story’s sense of humour tries to broaden its ambition with jokes about “cancel culture” and respecting PC standards, the snide attitude driving Unfriending doesn’t lose sight of its main target.
This scaled-down, dialogue-based dark comedy written and directed by Brett and Jason Butler (Mourning Has Broken, First Round Down) connects with their strengths as storytellers who know how to build interesting dynamics within an ensemble cast. Their screenplay is characterized well and offers lots of good scene-stealing opportunities for each of their actors. Their visual style seems like its under pressure though; perhaps because the Butlers are tied to a singular location – Blake’s parents’ house. With the inclusion of tracking shots that are a little too close for comfort and a shot list that consists of abrupt framing, the Butlers seem like they’re reaching for ways make this bottled flick hip and cool. Two needle drops of Sloan’s “Everything You’ve Done Wrong” are the closest they come. Like It’s A Disaster! or People Hold On, less is more when working with minimalist concepts. Another comparable example being Sally Potter’s The Party, where the shooting style was complimented nicely with its greyscale palette.
Unfriending is a devilishly good indie that nearly gets away with everything.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie