Marjane Satrapi sparks a surprising change of tone in this schizophrenic horror comedy. The director of 2007’s powerful Iranian revolution animation Persepolis has traded in a social consciousness for a brash oddball, with obvious points of reference. Ryan Reynolds plays Jerry, a man-child akin to Adam Sandler’s flutter with respectable acting in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love. He works in a factory in which workers adorn pink overalls and enjoy a conga line, with a sense of twee
reminiscent of Wes Anderson and an off kilter horror with nods to David Lynch. Unfortunately its quality is not close to any of that work, partially through the way it treats mental illness with such odious crudeness and partially because it’s just not nearly as funny or shocking as it thinks. Much of the comedy derives from a talking, swearing cat and dog ‘good angel, bad angel’ double act, a painful and trashy device.
Jerry’s mental illness leads him to slashingsand disembodiments in the woods , without shedding any light on the nature of his schizophrenia. Is this just how all mentally ill patients behave? There’s a shoddy backstory regarding an abusive father and a mother who also heard voices but it is so shoehorned in through clunky flashbacks that it fails to make Jerry anymore human or complicated. Then there’s the small point of how the film deals with Jerry’s love interests at work. There’s the hot one (Gemma Arterton), the one ‘on his level’ (Anna Kendrick) and the fat one (Ella Smith). For a film so desperately trying to stand out as wacky, underneath its strange veneer is a very familiar crude and depressingly generic tone.
Review by David Rank
Focus is out now in the UK and US. Running time 103 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).