‘Unlovable’ review: Suzi Yoonessi’s indie drama plays familiar yet refreshing

 

An image of a scene from the new film Unloveable.

Charlene deGuzman and Melissa Leo play in-recovery addicts struggling for a sense of normalcy in the indie drama “Unlovable.” PHOTO CREDIT: Orion Classics

Charlene deGuzman was kind of a social media celebrity.  No, not that kind of social media celebrity. On Twitter, she created a following with blunt, honest, irreverent, and plenty other styles, of humor. Her jokes weren’t just funny; often, they were bananas. Soon, public figures and comedians like Patton Oswalt were retweeting her. She then started to use her time in the digital spotlight to aim a bulb on her own personal demons and struggles with addiction. This opened doors for a more cinematic endeavor. And like the motion picture equivalent of a retweet, Patton Oswalt served as one of the producers.

deGuzman co-wrote and stars in “Unlovable”, a film that presumably provided a channel for her own feelings and experiences with sex and love addiction. deGuzman plays Joy, a woman who doesn’t seem to have a healthy relationship with life, because her life is entirely centered on her relationship. Though she leans on such an unstable crutch, this doesn’t stop her from detouring to the local bar nearly every time she walks by. She drinks herself into oblivion, and wakes up with a total stranger.

Her boyfriend finds out she was at the bar again and had a one-night stand. It quickly becomes obvious that this has happened before, but this time he tells her it is over and she needs to move out. This devastation leads her right back to the bar. The next day, she wakes up late in another stranger’s bed. She also wakes up to a voicemail from her employer.

With no job and no place to go, Joy seeks help from one of the members of her local addicts support group. The somewhat-reluctant Maddie(Melissa Leo) lets Joy stay at her nana’s house, where there is a spare room adjacent to the garage. Maddie’s brother Jim(John Hawkes) lives in the house, and acts as caregiver to nana. Maddie tells Joy that Jim is odd and reserved, but the two quickly become friends when they find themselves bonding over a shared interest and talent.

“Unlovable” opens with strong wit, and a very dark but humorous voice-over. But this tone doesn’t stick around, and the rest of the film plays as a straight drama. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that; it is merely the contrast between scenes that is notable. Considering there are three credited screenwriters on the film(including executive producer Mark Duplass), it feels like one of them wrote the intro, and another wrote the rest of the film. Instead of a thorough collaboration, it feels like each one just brought a unique piece of the story puzzle, and just sliced them together.

A bigger sense of humor would have been nice, but “Unlovable” is still plenty entertaining. The oddball friendship between Joy and Jim is charming and fresh, with a strong foundation of brutal honesty. Meanwhile, the screenplay kind of navigates routine territory. Even in the portrayal of addiction it follows a familiar road, with almost predictable moments of mistakes and relapses. But that certainly doesn’t detract from the honesty of the moments.

The routine nature of the “Unlovable” tale lays out more like a warm, comfortable blanket than a weakness. This almost feels like it could be a Duplass Bros. film, so it is no surprise that is comes from their production house.  It may not inspire as much reflection, but it certainly basks in the simple humanity of each onscreen moment.

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