If you haven’t read the tea leaves yet, Mackenzie Davis is about to be a major star. Launching from (and then delivering brilliant work) the criminally underwatched AMC drama Halt and Catch Fire, Davis has been mostly seen in idiosyncratic supporting roles, like her stellar work in this year’s Tully. While her small studio roles (such as Blade Runner 2049) haven’t capitalized on her gifts, she has delivered a magnetic screen presence poised to pounce on something meatier when given the opportunity. Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town puts her center stage and the results are a blast.
Watching Davis in this leading role is doubly engaging due to the evident glee she has with more space to breathe, but also like witnessing the calm before the storm, a micro bit of fun before she inevitably has more seismic material placed on her shoulders. With Izzy, your next favorite actress has delivered the performance those in the know will say “I loved her when” in order to sound cool. But along with Davis, Izzy is pretty fucking cool.
Aside from Davis’ charisma, the film is a freshly realized comedy from writer/director Christian Papierniak. Set mostly within the confines of a single day that begins with the broke Izzy waking to a massive hangover in a stranger’s home and ends at her ex-boyfriend’s engagement party, the film presents familiar tropes with alternating notes of frenzy and reflection. As Izzy makes her way (the fuck) around the existential confusion of her Los Angeles landscape, her dire need to get her shit together is repeatedly reflected back at her. Featuring an equally astute cast from the charming Lakeith Stanfield, a lovelorn Haley Joel Osment, a bewigged Annie Potts, and a casually genius Carrie Coon as Izzy’s resentful sister, the film plays like the catchiest of punk tunes.
While that occasionally means the film ignores its accidental conventionality, Papierniak has crafted a character study treat of interesting diversions. With its hilarious plodding, the film almost has shades of Samuel Beckett, keen in its awareness of Izzy’s stalling maturity but positing her as a single player in a broader cultural disengagement. It helps that the film maintains a sense of fun, then surprises you with its emotionally convicted underpinnings.
The film also finds humor in locale specific microaggressions of LA creatives, but is unhypocritical when portraying Izzy as a struggling musician. Borrowing heavily from a punk catalog, the midpoint showstopper is Davis and Coon dueting to Heavens To Betsy’s “axement”. This moment also serves as a pivot point for the film, one where its sentiments become more pronounced as the film wraps itself up. Here the film begins to lose some of its individuality, but its more traditional closing is still somewhat narratively ambitious: a really bad day that still isn’t catalyst for change, but one that puts all the pins in place for a reemergence.