I Think We're Alone Now (2018)
Man, it's another one that is rated R for language. There's no nudity. There's some violence that eventually leads to someone's death. The apocalypse is spooky and I don't ever really foresee a PG version of the post-apocalypse. It's a somber setting where we have to understand that everyone is dead. We see a lot of corpses in varying stages of decay, which is pretty gross. Also, there's some willful cruelty in the movie. I don't know if any of this tallies up to R rating, but it has one. R.
DIRECTOR: Reed Morano
I'm kind of dumb. I write a lot. I include lots of typos because I only do one draft of many of my analyses. Also, writing on a daily basis is pretty intense. But this is the first time that I thought I was sitting down for one movie and got a completely different movie. What I'm saying is that I rented the wrong movie. I thought I was renting, Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot with Joaquin Pheonix. What I got was I Think We're Alone Now. You know what? I criticize rom-coms for having very generic titles, but lots of movies have generic titles. Regardless, I quickly realized that I had the wrong movie and the odds of getting a functional film with that logic is astounding. Regardless, I Think We're Alone Now wasn't a bad time.
I Think We're Alone Now doesn't really blow my mind. I mean, the cast blows my mind. I rent the wrong movie and it ends up being a movie with Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning, and Paul Giamatti? That's a pretty lucky situation. On top of that, it's also kind of an artsy fartsy movie too? I should get a lottery ticket. But I got this watchable film that really is the result in the A24 attitude. I have been accidentally dancing around this idea for a while with all of my A24 reviews. I know that A24 is bigger than what I've been reviewing or analyzing, but I noticed that the titles that get my attention are the genre pieces. Man, A24 really dives deep into genre, especially horror. But A24 horror is something very different than standard horror fare. It takes many of the tropes of horror and the generic conventions of horror and then slows it way the heck down. It pads these scripts with character development and gives directors the opportunity to make the movie look absolutely gorgeous. I love that. But the thing about A24 is that those slower stories tend to make a lot of sense. Every scene adds to the next. Yeah, some of them could be trimmed a little bit. I wouldn't be surprised if I've written that before. But, those movies really work as cohesive storylines. I Think We're Alone Now isn't that. First of all, I Think We're Alone Now isn't from A24. I think it is Bleeker Street or something. The production company logos didn't inspire me with hope. But this is a movie that looks gorgeous, has great acting, and a desperate need to imply that these scenes have significance. Reed Morano has directed a lot of stuff I like, primarily TV stuff like The Handmaid's Tale and Halt and Catch Fire. But with a story like I Think We're Alone Now, Morano is kind of treading on well worn territory that, in many cases, has been done better. The post-apocalypse has been the home of social commentary. We have The Walking Dead, which has often lost its way only to return later. That show is bleak. But we also have The Road, which covers a lot of the same commentary with greater effectiveness. But neither of those exactly suits the message that Morano is trying to cover in I Think We're Alone Now. Morano seems to be aiming for the normalcy of being alone. Del, while horribly depressed, probably finds some joy in being left alone. He does exactly what I would do in the post-apocalypse and cleans. Okay, I'd leave lawns to grow because there's no way that you'd be able to maintain a whole town. But the problem with I Think We're Alone Now's message of normality in the post-apocalypse is that a show did the same way better.
I Think We're Alone Now shouldn't be a dramatic and slightly pretentious look at a world without people. It should be the TV called The Last Man on Earth. I adored that show. Watching that show simultaneously with The Walking Dead made me realize that getting really dramatic about people doesn't sell the messages of isolation and frustration. Absurd comedy with dramatic moments actually sells it better. Del and Grace aren't as fleshed out as the movie implies that they are. One of the things that is stressed in the film is that there's a bit of a monotony that comes with being alone and giving oneself tasks. Thank heavens that the movie is only an hour-and-a-half because I was wondering when something else was going to happen. I kept watching I Think We're Alone Now and wondered why Del wasn't taking advantage of all of the possibilities of an America without civilization. When we meet Phil / Tandy from The Last Man on Earth, his frustration with the post-apocalypse is actually pretty sympathetic. Tandy is a horrible human being, but we still feel bad for him because he's exhausted every possibility. Del's sadness comes from almost being bored with something that he really doesn't have to do. The movie even almost addresses it accidentally. There's a throwaway line asking how Del didn't know what was going on outside of his town. Because Del is an isolationist, he never really leaves his house. But he never really addresses this in a meaningful way. He simply skirts the issue when he is directly confronted with this issue. The odd thing is that he hates the people of his town. He treats everything around him with scorn. So we have to make this leap of faith and suspend our disbelief that he would get this deep into a project without seeing how the rest of civilization was fairing. I mean, he's conserving batteries from houses without seeing if the next town over that has a Costco has batteries. We are begged to follow Del's line of thinking when it really doesn't really scan. If Del loved his town, maybe I could see it. If he finally felt accepted, then whatever. But Del is disgusted by everything in his town. That could be interesting, but it takes a lot of work on the part of the audience to stick with Del. I suppose the same could be said of Grace. Grace has all of this knowledge that is kept from the audience. She has these secrets, but we don't really know that she has a secret. She's playing by rules that we don't really know was broken.
And that's when the movie relies too much on the twist. SPOILERS ABOUT A TWIST IN THE FILM: The movie outright lies to us for the entire film. It never really loads the Chekhov's Gun, but just fires it without answer. Del is an intrinsically private person. Not knowing what makes Del tick is part of the story. Even when his background is revealed, it is very scant. But Grace almost seems like an open book. There's never any implication that she's hiding anything except for the fact that, like Del, she is private about her own life. If Del is private and Grace is private, we have to assume that the apocalypse is private. She even outright lies (kind of). (That's a terrible sentence.) She screams about having lost everyone and that she cared about them. She stressed that the world was over and that there are no other people. When she finds a dog, she finds it miraculous. There is no implication that society still exists. If one person was open the other was closed, I could see this choice to make sense. It's actually bizarre that Del is willing to let the only other person in existence go so willy-nilly. He actually seems to be making a big character leap when he asks Grace to stay. The relationship between Del and Grace is actually very not romantic. I wish I could say that I Think We're Alone Now was more romantic because there are seeds of that throughout the film. A lot of these narratives are based on a characters who hate each other to characters who love each other. Del and Grace go from being annoying to one another to tolerating each other and that's considered love. It's pretty bleak. But this leads all to the twist. I don't want to throw the word "twist" around because it actually seems to cheapen what filmmakers are trying to do. But think about it: the movie had no way to end. It's such a bombastic ending. By having Paul Giamatti and Charlotte Gainbourg show up and talk about civilization again is meant to make our jaws drop. That's interesting, but it brings a ton of baggage with it that shows that it doesn't really work narratively. If civilization exists, that means that Grace is actually a terrible person. I posit that Grace is a problematic character regardless, but I'll move on because I can sympathize with her choice. But if Grace has been keeping society a secret, that means that there has to be a reason. Grace has to be the good guy, not the bad guy. She can't just be a runaway who wants to live in this abandoned town with Del. The movie wants to get that ending, but wants something to actually happen in this film as well. So the movie adds this whole Stepford Wives thing. The Stepford Wives (despite the fact that I haven't actually seen it! Oopsie!) brings up real questions about feminism and free will and is really quite complex. I even think that the setting of I Think We're Alone Now or The Last Man on Earth could tackle something like that really well. But if The Last Man on Earth had that plot twist, it would be a season finale or premiere idea and then the intricacies and implications could be explained slowly. Instead, we're thrown into the deep end of the ocean and the story takes the easy way out. There are lots of people like grace being lobotomized and Del and Grace just...leave. Well, I'm glad that Grace is better. What about all of the other women who have that cut in the back of their necks? It's really upsetting that the movie takes such an easy answer to a complex idea.
I Think We're Alone Now was a very watchable film. I like the post-apocalypse. Having two characters develop without the strings of subplots is pretty great a lot of the time. But I Think We're Alone Now wants to be a more important movie than it is without actually having the substance of something life-changing. It wants to do too much, but doesn't really accomplish anything new. It's super serious and that's a real bummer. This story works better as The Last Man on Earth because there's the fun juxtaposition between the context of the story and the way that people are acting. It's kind of a bummer film, which is allowed. It just would have worked better if it wasn't a bummer.
Leave a Reply.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.