IT’S A DISASTER



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It’s a Disaster is what is called a mixed-genre film.  Part of it is young urban professionals (yuppies) at play, a style of comedy/drama that became very popular in theatrical form as Off-Broadway began dying in the 1980’s and ‘90’s and that for reasons that completely elude me would sometimes win a Pulitzer Prize.  The other genre is the disaster film, an appropriate, in many ways, pair of genres to cross since so often one would wish something apocalyptic would happen in a story like this so that the characters and the audience would be put out of their misery (oh, just think how much better Carnage would have been if only they had been hit by a meteorite).
The basic premise of the movie is that once a month a group of twenty/thirty somethings gather for a couples’ brunch at someone’s house.  For this particular gathering, everything starts out as usual, but soon things start happening—you know, things, like…like losing cell phone and internet reception; losing electricity; and a neighbor dropping by in a hazmat suit who is about to tell them what is going on but just leaves when he realizes they were having a party but didn’t invite him since he was no longer in a relationship.  Those sorts of things.  And then the characters manage to find out that some group has exploded a series of dirty bombs all over the U.S. making it necessary for them to tape up all the doors and windows and wait…and wait…and wait.
The basic humor of the story is the type one usually finds in a dark comedy like this: the world is coming to an end, but the various characters can’t stop their own petty problems and issues with each other from becoming more prominent than what is going on outside the house (you know, we’re all about to die, but how dare you sleep with my wife type thing, and why do all the men I date turn out to be insane, and how about a three way before the end comes).  Of course, when one thinks about it, this egotism at the center of the movie pretty much sums up the problem with most yuppie at play movies as it is.  Here, the disaster only brings to the fore the self-centeredness of what is really going on at these gatherings.   One of the darkest (yet funniest) scenes is what happens to the couple that are habitually late—you’re horrified, yet strangely more sympathetic to the people who arrived on time.
This is a first rate little low budget gem that is hysterical from beginning to end.   The screenplay by Todd Berger, who also directed and plays the miffed, hazmatted neighbor, is one of those where two characters have only to exchange two lines and you know instantly their whole history together.   To paraphrase Pauline Kael’s comments on the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera and Il Travotore, Berger does to the yuppies at play genre what should be done to the yuppies at play genre.  He may have painted himself into a corner with the ending, but it’s still pretty satisfying.  The acting is pitch ensemble perfect with a solid cast: Julia Stiles, David Cross, America Ferrera, Erinn Hayes, Jeff Grace, Rachel Boston, Kevin M. Brenna, Blaise Miller.  For those of you making independent films, let this be a lesson as to what can be done without A-listers.   And it has one of the most imaginative uses of classical music that I’ve come across in a movie in some time.   
See it before it’s too late.
Tell me what you think.
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