'Save Yourselves!' never wants to be a horror-comedy, opting for straightforward slapstick, but even then, it struggles to sustain its message of disconnection as humor wears thinner by the Brooklynite cliché.
- 🍷 Natural romantic chemistry.
- 🍷 Cute little buggers.
- 🍷 Exhaustingly one-note.
- 🍷 Zero tonal blend.
- 🍷 Loses control of its narrative.
As a millennial romantic comedy, as an end-of-days alien invasion event, Save Yourselves! is a one-trick pony. Leads Sunita Mani and John Reynolds are, indeed, peppily well-intended in their reconsiderations of veganism and masculinity assessments in today’s world. Unfortunately, Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson lose their message about unplugging from busy-bee civilizations in an odd finale climax that seems pitted against earlier assertions of forever altered lifestyle dynamics.
Maybe your contextual read-ins will tap newfound epiphanies. But for someone who struggled to connect with Save Yourselves! from the very first frame? There’s never a marriage between slapstick extraterrestrial encounters and this explorational modern hipsterism credo.
Su (Sunita Mani) and Jack (John Reynolds) are your average Brooklyn couple who can’t stay off smart devices long enough to even experience what happens after foreplay. In an effort to reconnect with one another, the couple plans a “disconnection retreat” at a mutual friend’s isolated cabin. Regrettably, Su is fired when she informs her employer of the week-long escape, which prompts her newfound drive for productive discussions despite Jack’s desire to live in the woodland moment. Canoe canoodling turns into middle-of-nowhere bickering, and that’s when “the pouf” appears. After Su breaks their no-phones pact, said pouf is revealed to be a fuzzy entity, part of a larger species currently taking over Earth.
It’s all...so performative and on-the-nose (very Sundance). Save Yourselves! opens with Su’s frustration over Jack disrupting her browser tab organization (Matt types with ten very-specifically-placed tabs open). As mentioned, Su gets dropped from her professional stability for even pondering the concept of not working for twenty-four hours, let alone an entire week (types the millennial writer knowing that his brain confuses relaxation with wasted time). Then, while among nature, Jack struggles with the realization that he’s not the man his father’s generation expected, able to “macho” their way out of plumbing issues or broken-down vehicles or even, with zero effort, chop wood. It’s not to say Fischer and Wilson aren’t emphasizing relatable frustrations or perceived shortcomings; it’s just how hipsterly inclined scenes become while ensuing sci-fi standoffs remain bland at best.
That’s because working with minimal budgets, Save Yourselves! is a performance piece. Mani and Reynolds carry most scenes through dialogue about sourdough starters, or in-check aggression escalation, or desires to live as a better collective “we.” These are characters who get excited over locating ‘booch (kombucha) at an upstate gas station market, and yet, there’s cuteness and resonance in their arcs. Sunita Mani’s projected anxieties are anyone’s in their mid-30s, coping with comparatives realities where our parents had three children and a home by the time we could barely conquer our student loans. Reynolds’ portrayal of the average Williamsburg “soy boy” is nervous and submissive and stereotypical in mirror-reflective ways, as both actors find romance in their progressive relationship.
The character-driven aspect is perhaps the film's biggest letdown, given how introductions of an unknown conflict never rise above Su and Jack staring at a tumbleweed-sized fluff ball. We learn little about our new Critters-adjacent overlords, except they move by slinging around their elasticity, pointed suction tongues, and ethanol is their preferred sustenance. Other than that, the silliness of said doomsday scenario never heightens enough to balance the ongoing crises of self-doubt brewing in Su and Jack. That’s part of the humor, as neither notice dead bodies out kitchen windows or how Jack’s sleep-screaming at imaginary dangers is ignored by Su when something threatening perches on their ceiling. Then they find a baby? Hence where themes flip hard and, at least in my interpretation, the speaking towards my generation’s woes is erased by third-act pivots.
Save Yourselves! is about escaping society’s ever-mounting pressures to focus on one’s centered healing. Being connected all day, all night is taking a toll on our capitalism-driven existences where productivity can be achieved in the office, on the go, or wherever WiFi is available. The problem is, Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson aren’t saying anything new, and their injection of cosmic dust bunnies adds little-to-no intrigue beyond creatures you want to pet. It’s the horror-comedy equivalent of Snapple cap wisdom written by someone with lensless glasses and a man bun, which seems like a superfluous swipe at generational divides that is heavily lopsided when balancing its subgenres.
Save Yourselves! will hit drive-ins October 2, 2020, and on VOD October 6, 2020.
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