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Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town (2018)

I Dare You to Love Me

As a title, Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town does two jobs:

A) It grabs moviegoers’ attention in an overcrowded marketplace that is, frankly, starved for audacity.

B) It challenges media outlets to run uncensored coverage of the film and, consequently (or at least potentially), grows its audience.

Both scenarios are plausible and obnoxious, which is also a great way to describe wannabe L.A. rocker, Izzy (Mackenzie Davis), whom we meet as a fiery train wreck in progress. She wakes up in a stranger’s bed with no idea where she is, how she got there, or how good (or bad) the sex was. Her catering outfit is smeared with wine (or possibly vomit mixed with blood and wine), and the creaky floors in this alien house make it difficult to leave without stirring her unconscious partner.

He wakes up and (re-)introduces himself as George (Lakeith Stanfield), a bookish helicopter pilot who mistakes Izzy’s small talk and request for a lift back to her friend's house as a sign of genuine interest. Izzy is still hung up on her ex, Roger (Alex Russell), whom, she learns via Instagram a short while later, is having an engagement party that night. With no car, no money, and nowhere else to go (her expectant friend has just kicked her out), she hustles, pedals, and scoots across L.A. in the hopes of convincing Roger to rescue her from a life of directionless poverty.

Izzy is almost impossible to like at the outset. But writer/director Christian Papierniak subtly and superbly flips our expectations during this long, weird journey so that, by the end, we follow the arc of his character’s narcissism from a place of aggravating self-involvement to one of enlightened self-improvement. Somewhere between begging for odd jobs from a shut-in computer programmer (Haley Joel Osment); to catching a glimpse of things to come in a lovelorn pack-rat (Annie Potts); and singing a duet of Heavens to Betsy’s “Axemen” at a Christmas party, her mission to whisk Roger away from wedded bliss becomes murky: Does she have anything to offer Roger beyond nostalgia and youthful passion? If so, is it fair to herself to hide out in the past instead of forging a meaningful future?

Like Trainspotting, Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town starts as an energetic, hyper-stylized ode to irresponsibility before settling into a fittingly somber mood. Papierniak underscores Izzy’s addiction to romanticized notions of fate through rose-tinted dream sequences and a nine-chapter structure marked by rock-club-poster title cards. As the film progresses, these elements take on new form and meaning, which track with the engagement party countdown. Izzy comes to realize just how much the world around her has moved on while she spent years reeling from a series of professional setbacks and personal betrayals (not all of which involve Roger).

Papierniak's visual execution of this theme is remarkable. Those dream sequences smash-open the movie, and Izzy's subsequent freak-outs and manic unpleasantness are played so big that it's easy to dismiss her as a character. In later chapters, the director dials back the quick-cutting and the focus on oddballs, introducing us to Izzy's dysfunctional family and, at long last, to Roger. In one of my very favorite scenes from any movie, Papierniak uses light and close-up to transport the star-crossed couple from their turbulent present to their idyllic early dating life and back again. It's here that Mackenzie Davis dredges up Izzy's deepest vulnerabilities, playing them as earnestly as the callous notes she'd employed for much of the rest of the film.

From this pivotal scene onward, Davis and Papierniak break through the layers of self-deception and doubt that have held Izzy back for nearly half a decade. Even in a zero-hour twist during which things seem to work out in the unlikeliest of ways, the screenplay and performance find their way back to truth. It is here, faced with the real-world understanding of what relationships are, what they aren't, and what they could be, that Izzy discovers her inner rock star--the badass who's unafraid to give the middle finger to anyone, even if that person is some pathetic and no-longer-useful version of herself.

Believe it or not, I've left out a lot of story details. This pains me, but there are performances and revelations in Papierniak's film that I would spoil only under penalty of death--no matter how much it pains me not to be able to praise them. The third act (or, I guess, the final three chapters) infrequently stall out in "surprise relationships" mode, but they lead to some wonderfully heartfelt confrontations, so we'll call that a draw. Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town takes some getting used to, and the title tries way too hard to stand out. But if that's what it takes to put eyeballs on one of the year's best, most surprising films, so be it.

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