For nearly two decades now, David Cross has gotten a lot of comedic mileage out of puncturing the cynical assumptions made by corporate America—often by doing nothing more than stating them aloud. His best work identifies the more alarming way consumer culture seeps into our moral and intellectual groundwater, poisoning the clones who swallow whatever they’re fed as well as those who believe they’re offering a meaningful protest. Cross’s debut as a feature film writer/director focuses on this bleak social intersection, with encouraging (though discouraging) results.
The contemporary obsession with fame casts its shadow over Katelyn, a talentless small-town teenager desperate to sing on The Voice—so that she can later appear on Ellen. The shadow also ensnares Katelyn’s dad, Dave, a hapless libertarian who vents his impotent fury at society by raging against the city council at public meetings. A cell-phone video of one of Dave’s tirades makes it into the hands of Think Tank, a Brooklyn “advocacy group” who decides to make Dave into a viral folk hero. You won’t BELIEVE what happens next!
Cross pushes past the fish barrel target practice this material could have been (though some survives) on his way to complex, discomforting truths and satisfying laughs. This pursuit is aided by excellent performances from the entire cast, especially Meredith Hagner, who liberates Katelyn’s provincialism from airhead cliché, Matt Walsh, whose Dave is one long slow burn, and best of all, James Adomian, who creates in Donovan, head of the clueless hipster Think Tank, a comic character for the ages. Or at least for this one. Simultaneously all the way broad and as nuanced as the undoubtedly artisanal wax at the tips of his unbearable moustache, Donovan could have gone wrong in 100 ways. Cross and Adomian allow him to go wrong in 1,000, and it makes all the difference.