By Simon Miraudo
February 17, 2014
Todd Berger‘s very funny, uncommonly moving apocalypse comedy It’s a Disaster forces its characters to contend with that most dreadful of scenarios: Sunday brunch with your partner’s friends. Oh, and, well, the apocalypse too. But mostly that first thing.
Julia Stiles plays Tracy, who is boldly bringing along her new boyfriend, Glenn (David Cross), to her married pals’ regular weekend get-together. In a lengthy, unbroken single take, Glenn meets repressed hosts Emma (Erinn Hayes) and Pete (Blaise Miller), sexually voracious free spirits Lexi (Rachel Boston) and Buck (Kevin M. Brennan), and engaged odd-couple on the brink of collapse, Hedy (America Ferrera) and Shane (Jeff Grace). They spend the early part of the afternoon awkwardly interacting and accidentally saying the exact wrong thing. So far, brunch as usual.
Slowly, they come to realise that during their deeply uncomfortable meal, America has been struck by… something. A nuclear plant explosion? A terrorist attack?…the rapture? All of these scenarios are pondered, though ultimately ignored. Despite boarding up the doors and windows to keep the poisonous gasses from entering, they acknowledge death is imminent, and that they’re stuck with one another to see out life as they know it. As their final day unfolds, secrets come tumbling forth, inhibitions are dropped, drugs are taken. The most startling moment comes when someone exposes their deeply held, extremist religious beliefs (always a no-no in polite company, and even, in this instance, impolite company).
Berger’s script is peppered with amusing, seemingly insignificant asides in the face of impending doom to keep the mood light. For instance, Tracy telling Glenn all her regrets: “You know, I never went to Europe. Never. Not once. I never even went to Montreal, which I hear is very European. I never went scuba-diving, I never went to the ballet, I’ve never been in love. I’ve never even watched The Wire.” His response: “All of those things are overrated. Except for The Wire, that’s really good.” Stiles and Cross are, in particular, excellent here, and they share one moment that practically brought a tear to my eye, so honest and sweet it was. When the final twist arrives, it floored me. Full of ingenuity and genuine surprises, this movie.
The whole cast is really impressive, actually; thrown into every conceivable combination and bouncing off one another expertly. Berger, Brennan, Grace, and Miller all belong to comedy collective The Vacationeers, and their latest feature does indeed fulfil the expectation that it be funny. I was bewildered, however, by the way in which I also found it affecting, not to mention the cinematic nature of this micro-budgeted, single-location indie flick. Forgive the following compliment for being too obvious, but this film is far from a disaster.
It’s a Disaster will be available on Quickflix from February 19, 2014.