“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Perhaps this statement tends to stick around due to the aspect of endearment. It always appears that life can never stay fully happy. The comedy thriller film helmed by BenDavid Grabinski opts to affirm this statement. Married couples cannot ever be that perfect, right?
The story revolves around a libidinous married couple, Tom (Joel McHale, known for his roles in The Soup and Community) and Janet (Kerry Bishe, who portrayed Kathy Stafford in Argo). Both have been married for fourteen years, and nothing seems to stop them from displaying affection towards one another which peeves off their friends. One day, a man in a black suit shows up on their front doorstep (Stephen Root) and informs them they are dealing with a mishap and requests they inject themselves with an unknown substance to make them “normal.” Pretty sketchy. Sick of his nonsense, the wife hits him with an object, leading to his apparent death. Both try to deal with it while being invited to a couples’ hangout at a mansion. From there, questions and answers about loyalties amongst their friends arise, leading to some tense situations and a peculiar outcome.
Grabinski has the right direction, with his camera shots and ominous music leading to a healthy supply of tension throughout the film. McHale and Bishe keep the plot rolling in an intriguing manner, leading viewers to guess what action will unfold in the end. There is a death on hands? Check. Does someone want to engage with the husband sexually? Check. A gun room? Check. Those reappearing scenes with the wife in a dark forest with chairs? Absolutely. “Everything’s perfectly normal.”
The comedy element comes in small doses, with the narrative staying driven by the mansion’s tension-filled atmosphere. Some weird, red-light cameras are creepily hiding around the house, exposing certain people. The friends are drunk, and it is a night where folks should be happy. The film keeps up in moving along nicely.
With all that said, one cannot help but feel a bit cheated when the third act comes around. No spoilers, but the payoff from all the suspense is quite a letdown. Someone was watching the group, so now they got to spill secrets. No resolution, frankly. Anything that happened to our lead characters on this journey was gone in the snap of one’s fingers.
It is a little odd for all these mind-games to appear and lead to such a muted payoff. People want to be happy and together, and then something they come across threatens their merriment. Some can move on from it, and others cannot. Happily crafts an enjoyable first two-thirds before overthinking in the screenplay soured the ending (Titanic might have competition for a love story concluding weirdly).
Maybe one day, I can happily watch a film progressing along amiably without scratching my head during the climax.