Indie comedy has made a rich tradition of the slice-of-life movie, following one person or small group from the moment they wake up until they go to bed. The '90s independent film scene were full of these movies, like Richard Linklater's Slacker or Kevin Smith's Clerks. Sometimes they could offer meandering looks at the lives of stagnant people, or sleepy conversations between strangers—like another Linklater movie, Before Sunrise—but rarely do they show a ton of momentum. Breaking tradition, Christian Papierniak's Izzy Gets the F*** Across Town is all about momentum, following a hapless main character on a quest that means the world to her. And it's a whole lot of fun.
We meet Izzy (Mackenzie Davis, who is nothing short of powerhouse in this movie) when she wakes up in the bed of a one-night stand (Lakeith Stanfield), totally unaware of who he is or where exactly she's ended up. She's a cater-waiter and somehow made her Santa Monica, CA. She doesn't have a working car, she doesn't have a ton of money, and she's pretty much got no real friends to rely on. We find out quickly she's an aspiring musician whose prospects have dried up once her music partner/sister Virginia (Carrie Coon) decided to quit. Izzy's at the lowest ebb, but an Instagram post lets her know her ex-boyfriend, whom she's still pining for, has gotten engaged, and that the engagement party is that night in Los Feliz. With only the goal of winning him back, and only a few hours to get there, Izzy has to get herself the eff across that town.
In many ways, Izzy Gets the F*** Across Town is the most supremely Los Angeles movie that could exist; anyone who's been here knows that getting from anywhere by the ocean to anywhere on the east side in anything approaching decent time is a near herculean task. And that's when you have a car, much less if you're totally without transportation and have somewhere important to be. But Papierniak cleverly doesn't make the journey about the neighborhoods as much as illustrating how many there are to go through. Santa Monica is low, whereas the party is in the Los Feliz hills, so she's traveling up the whole time, climbing a mountain to her destiny like Zeigfried going off to slay the dragon.
This sounds a bit loftier than it is, but the structure works in the movie's favor. Along the way, Izzy meets several colorful characters, both known to her and total strangers, who are alternately hostile or surprisingly friendly depending on what's necessary. These include a whole string of impressive guest stars like Alia Shawkat, Haley Joel Osment, Annie Potts, Brandon T. Jackson, and Rob Huebel. These vignettes are funny, or touching, or disturbing, or in one instance deeply moving, but they all serve to show us where Izzy went wrong, and all the ways she could hopefully turn it around.
And for most of the movie's 86-minute runtime, I was enjoying it immensely, laughing at madcap adventures and feeling the moments of reflection along with Izzy. But then the movie decides for its final act to change the structure, and it never really worked for me. There's a dream element that keeps recurring through the movie that made me unsure if I was meant to believe what I was seeing. It feels like a different movie after that and not one that's nearly as interesting or entertaining.
That said, the ending didn't sink the experience for me, and the brisk pace and brevity of the film meant there wasn't too much time to find things bothersome. Davis is truly magnetic and one particular scene between she and Coon—with years of pent-up resentment expressed through a duet, show entirely in shot-reverse-shot like a conversation as though they weren't in a room full of people watching—is easily the movie's standout.
Izzy Gets the F*** Across Town is an effective little indie with fantastic performances and a mostly effective structure. And it definitely won't feel like sitting in languorous L.A. traffic.
3.5 out of 5
Images: Shout! Factory