Save Yourselves!

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 10/08/20 04:51:25

"It doesn't get much more randomly silly than an alien invasion."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

"Save Yourselves!" is an enjoyable-enough bit of sci-fi-slash-millennial self parody that starts to run out of steam well before it hits the 90-minute "real feature" mark, but makes it there because of the on-screen pair being pretty likable despite being thin and basic types. A good high concept and a good idea of where one's target audience and the targets of one's jokes intersect can get a movie fairly far.

The pair are Su (Sunita Mani) and Jack (John Reynolds), a Brooklyn couple starting to feel like they spend too much time scrolling separate devices in the same room. At an engagement party, they run into Jack's friend Raph (Ben Sinclair), who has chucked the rat race to do things like installing solar panels in South America and renovating his late grandfather's cabin upstate. The pair take him up on his offer to stay there a week, planning to turn off their phones for the duration - just as specks in the sky behind them start moving in an unnatural way.

The audience is in for an hour and a half with Sunita Mani and John Reynolds, and the good news is that they're enjoyable company. Filmmakers Alex Huston Fischer & Eleanor Wilson start from a familiar basis - Jack is the guy who is still kind of childish and hobby-obsessed in his mid-thirties, probably about ten years away from being the sitcom dad who just doesn't understand the things outside his wheelhouse, while Su is the sensible, focused partner who keeps him on track - but the filmmakers and cast are clever in how they go about it: Jack can't be nearly as dumb as he often looks, and Su's sensibility can easily become absurd in its own way. The pair play off each other extremely well, too - Reynolds gushes in a way that seems genuine rather than hammy, while Mani is able to counter that with withering looks and quick responses that hit even better because they are flailing and intense in their own way.

The movie works like that in general - take out the alien invasion, and there's a fairly decent "people in their thirties who haven't learned what used to be basic life skills yet" comedy there, and Wilson & Fischer have good instincts on when to let it roll as-is and when to add a little more kick by having something apocalyptic play out in the corner. By the time that stuff takes center stage, the audience likes these two enough to hope they somehow survive regardless, and seldom take any delight in them falling short. The lack of truly mean-spirited jokes makes the second half flow well, although not having some other element to push against makes things feel a little more random in the back half, like Fischer & Wilson don't quite have a place they want it to go.

Something that may seem small but which is the big thing that keeps it from falling apart is that the "pouffes" are the sort of thing that would have been good as classic Doctor Who villains, simple and practical but able to be threatening even when they should play as completely ridiculous. There's never a moment when the amount of CGI that this sort of independent film can afford becomes an impediment to believing what's on screen. Screw that up and it's a very different movie and a lot less fun.

But they don't, and while this isn't a movie that particularly has to worry about aging well - it's thoroughly contemporary, so who cares if it looks goofy in ten years? - it works very well in the current moment. Maybe it doesn't have any particular wisdom about that moment, but it's got plenty of jokes that hit without being cruel, and maybe you don't need a lot of wisdom when the world is often random and absurd anyway.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.