It’s a Disaster asks a question worth pondering: what if you went to a brunch with people you don’t particularly enjoy, only to find out you were all going to die together within a few hours, and there’s nothing you can do about it?
The film starts out as Tracy (Julia Stiles) brings her new boyfriend Glenn (David Cross) over to a Sunday brunch at her friend’s house. The first act of this movie is a completely spot on take of going to a small get-together and being the only new person to the group. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. The inside jokes you don’t get, the awkward questions that offend people without realizing you’ve asked something offensive, the unbearable urge to try to be nice to everyone even if they’re being jerks to you, etc. It’s amazingly relatable. The awkwardness would have been uncomfortable had the comedy not been so strongly written. Brilliant job giving us equal amounts of character development for each of the eight characters in the film as well.
The second act begins with the slowly unraveling news that America has fallen victim to a series of large chemical warfare attacks, and going outside of your house will result in a painful death within a few minutes (as they observe happen to the fifth couple, who show up to the brunch late). Then the story becomes great in how we see all of the characters evolve into different visions of reacting to the apocalypse. One guy starts planning how he’s going to start his post-apocalyptic motorcycle gang, someone else decides to go out on as many drugs and much booze as possible, another is casually trying to look to the bright side of things “We’ll probably get some bitchin’ white robes in heaven.”
But the funniest part of this end-of-the-world story is that, probably realistically, despite the fact that life as they know it is coming to an end, they still end up focusing on the trivial little bullshit that comes up. Like when they are searching for a radio to listen to the news, and they eventually find one; it leads to a revelation that one of the husbands had been cheating on his wife, leading to a heated exchange. All the while, Glenn slowly grabs the radio with a concerned look on his face while saying, “Ok, why don’t we put a pin in this for a minute and perhaps turn on the radio…?” The film often strays into silly behavior, but there always seems to be the one voice of reason chiming in to remind us that they are all about to die. During a fun “dance party” scene, there’s still a shot of Shane looking out the window nervously, saying “Guys, I think a cloud of black smoke is heading this way…” Which goes carelessly ignored by the rest of the characters. Whenever someone gives a reality check, it just drives home how needlessly stupid everyone else is being.
David Cross really was the perfect guy to play the character he did. A completely normal guy in an awkward environment, realizing he’s going to be trapped in it for the rest of his short life. The rest of the cast was very good as well, even if I only knew Cross, Stiles, and America Ferrera previously. All of the characters mesh well together and play off of each other to great comedic effect. There was an overly goofy “free-spirited” couple, but their annoying antics only ended up contributing to the absurd nature of the film, and played well in contrast to the moments when other people are trying to be rational. Plus, assholes like them actually exist.
On a cinematic level, It’s a Disaster isn’t much to look at. The entire film takes place in one location, and I’m sure it could have been adapted into a stage play with the same success. But it doesn’t overstay its welcome at a brisk 90 minutes, and keeps up a productive pace. The movie never stalls at any point, and each scene is as interesting and funny as the last. It tries to inject a little bit of emotion, but it usually gets undercut by a spurt of comedy. I laughed out loud pretty consistently during the whole movie, and I watched it by myself. And it even ends on a really good joke. A funny little punchline to the ridiculous situation that these characters have dug themselves into through frivolous bickering and banal relationships.
This is one of the smartest, most sharply written comedies I’ve seen in a long time. A welcome change of pace from most of Hollywood’s predictable, broad comedies. It’s certainly more well written than other films of its subject matter (like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World). I loved It’s a Disaster. It’s just a first-rate commentary on how stubborn some people can be about the inconsequential little things, and how even with impending doom looming over their heads, they still can’t let the dumbest shit go. And it also points out how American culture has turned us into meaningless idiots (to be fair, I fall into this category as well). One character doesn’t want to get kidnapped by the never-revealed enemy, because he insists that his knowledge of pop-culture trivia will be an asset for our future society. Or, in probably my favorite contextually hilarious line in the entire movie; the characters depressingly realize they have about an hour left to live, and decide it would be fitting to finally eat their brunch, so that Emma’s quiche doesn’t go to waste… which is sadly followed by the irrelevant question: “That’s a vegan quiche, right?”
9 out of 10