Writer/Director: Todd Berger
I absolutely love witty banter. “Home Movies” is one of my favorite shows, “In Bruge” is one of my favorite movies, and my favorite scene from “Django Unchained” is when the Ku Klux Klan argues about wearing their hoods. So when I found out that “It’s A Disaster” is entirely comprised out of well-written and character-driven banter, I was surprised. I thought I was getting into some mumbly indie movie that David Cross did because he owed someone a favor.
“It’s A Disaster” is an end-of-the-world comedy (which is becoming pretty popular) where four couples meet up for a traditional Sunday brunch. They’ve all been friends for quite some time and all seem to have some unspoken and festering issues with one another. That’s not entirely true – Tracy’s (Julie Stiles) promising new boyfriend, Glenn (David Cross), is being introduced to everybody for the first time. The dinner is getting a little uncomfortable though, as personal issues begin to protrude their thin membrane of safety and enter into martial disputes. Then there’s a knock on the door. It’s their neighbor (and director), Hal (Todd Berger) in a hazmat suite.
Apparently a bunch of dirty bombs went off all over the world and VX nerve gas is contaminating the air. Hal then leaves, since he just wanted to see if he could borrow some D-batteries. Now aware of the world’s demise, the dinner party attendees take very different approaches to the potential apocalypse. Shane (Jeff Grace) is a sci-fi nerd turned extreme survivalist once he hears the news, Emma (Erinn Hayes) and Pete (Blaise Miller) become reflective on their dissolving marriage, Hedy (America Ferrera) decides to use her extensive chemistry background to get wasted, Lexi (Rachel Boston) and Buck (Kevin M. Brennan) are going to have a good time whether the world ends or not, and Glenn’s going to use this time to get to know Tracy.
For its subject matter, “It’s A Disaster” is incredibly low key. We never really leave the house other that to see some exteriors of it. The threats to the characters cannot be directly sensed, so they respond in a seemingly caviler way. A bomb doesn’t explode next door, marauders don’t come charging in for canned goods, and the military is nowhere to be seen. It’s odd to think about, but what if you found out the apocalypse was happening but you were just at home, eating a sandwich? How would you react? It would probably take a while to process the stakes at hand since it’s not happening right in front of your face.
This movie’s script is incredibly tight and humorous, but it’s also heavily reliant on its actors. I was never that much of a fan of Julia Stiles, but she fairly fantastic in this movie. It also turns out that David Cross is not only a hilarious character actor, but he can be a hilarious straight man as well. The creative decision to keep the technical production fairly simple but make the timing and blocking insanely complicated aided the movie. It was a bold choice to keep shots wide, forcing the actors to be rhythmically entertaining without a lot of coverage to fall back on – and it paid off.
Eventually, feeling that their death is imminent, they all try to accomplish some kind of inner peace by relinquishing truths, apologies, or concerns. This is where the movie is the most entertaining as these eight people try to find some kind of minor consolations at the end of the world. It’s the tiny character details and awkward comedy about the largest event the human race has ever experience that make this movie special.
– I can’t say this for sure, but I’m pretty convinced Todd Berger is Joss Whedon.
– “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret” is a good example of David Cross not being the straight man.
– That was Ugly Betty?