As it turns out, there's a super exciting, award-winning comedy-thriller hiding out in plain sight on your Netflix queue. I first saw I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore earlier this year when it premiered on the opening night of Sundance. This was my first time at the festival and I had no idea what I was doing. I wandered up to the press line like a child and told a lady with a clipboard that I wanted inside to see the movie. "Are you going to write something about the film?" she asked. "Absolutely," I said—an exaggeration, in fact, on a vague guess. I didn't know anything about the film except that Melanie Lynskey was in it, an actress I've loved ever since Reese Witherspoon said to her in Sweet Home Alabama, "You have a baby! In a bar!"
After much hemming and hawing, they let me inside, and there I was face to face with Lynskey, plus the film's other star, Elijah Wood, and first-time writer/director Macon Blair (whom I should have recognized as the lead actor from the revenge saga Blue Ruin, but didn't).
I should have sauntered up to the stars and recorded an interview with one of them on my iPhone the way all the other press people were doing. I realize that now. Instead, I camped out in a corner and started chomping on an apple. A woman with a British accent wearing a headset came up to me and said, "Excuse me. Could you not do that?"
I didn't know the film would drive the packed auditorium wild with excitement, and that this tiny little Netflix picture from a new filmmaker would go on to win the festival's Grand Jury Prize—whose previous winners include Birth of A Nation (2016), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015) and Whiplash (2014).
The film's surprise win portends the changing face of film and how it's distributed. Amazon pictures just won a couple of Academy Awards, and did you hear that Netflix has overtaken Paramount to distribute Martin Scorsese's upcoming $100 million movie? Again, my fears abound that streaming media will destroy the cinematic experience as we know it, but changes like these are inevitable, and what's the use of fighting it?
Now how about this movie? I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore opens on our hapless protagonist Ruth (Lynskey) as she drinks beer in her backyard and stares up at an unforgiving sky. Her life as a nurse in Virginia gets the shakeup when her house is burglarized. They've taken her laptop, her grandmother's silverware and, most depressingly, her Clonazepam. What follows is a bizarre, over-the-top adventure, not so much to retrieve the items as to seek a kind of retribution for a world that Ruth can't help but notice is teeming with assholes. She gets help along the way from her strange neighbor, Tony (Wood), who has a dog named Kevin and a gift for throwing ninja stars.
I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a film with a madcap plot that carries you through to a surprisingly violent crescendo. The movie works primarily because of the warmth and humanity that Lynskey and Wood bring to their characters. I can particularly relate with a woman in her mid- to late 30s who has a bit of a beer belly, still wears hoodies and lives alone in a home that may or may not have renters insurance.
One warning: The genuinely riveting third act might make this a poor contender for your next "Netflix and Chill" evening. Unless you're like me, and by "Netflix and Chill" you just intend to innocently hang out and watch a movie.
I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore is currently streaming on Netflix.