Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Movie with Abe: The Outside Story

The Outside Story
Directed by Casimir Nozkowski
Released April 30, 2021 (Digital and VOD)

There is a certain comfort that comes with being within a person’s own home, closed off from the outside world with doors to lock and lights to turn off. That isn’t completely separate from that which exists beyond it, and sounds may permeate it, especially in an apartment building or on a busy street. Yet especially in the current moment where many have spent months working from home in sweatpants, there is something daunting about the prospect of leaving and greeting an unknown universe. That monumental step will have to happen at some point, and it’s likely to come at exactly the wrong time, as it does in this lighthearted and entertaining film.

Charles (Brian Tyree Henry) is reeling from a breakup with his live-in girlfriend Isha (Sonequa Martin-Green). As he puts the finishing touches on an in-memoriam video for a famous actor who appears to be hours if not minutes from death, he finds himself locked out of his apartment with no shoes and little hope of getting inside. His general antisocial nature doesn’t serve him well as he struggles to find a way back in, which includes striking up a friendship with a young neighbor (Olivia Edward) and clashing with an irritable police officer (Sunita Mani) patrolling the neighborhood.

This film feels like a trip back in time to an antiquated New York City, set in a Brooklyn full of friendly personalities who spend their days sitting out on their stoops with all the time in the world to interact with anyone who passes by. It’s a welcome return to a nostalgic moment where law enforcement is villainized merely for handing out far too many tickets and consequences, like Charles getting fired because he cannot finish his timely assignment, seem far-off and unlikely to stick. That’s part of the appeal of this film, which plays out like one increasingly annoying day that its protagonist just wants to end even as it helps him to realize important things about his attitude and perspective.

Henry is a talented actor known for “Atlanta,” “Widows,” and other projects, and here he’s playing a lackluster everyman, someone who doesn’t try very hard to help others and softens considerably when he’s the one in need of assistance. He’s well-supported by an ensemble that includes a spirited Mani, typically precocious Edward, and other players like Asia Kate Dillon and Maria Dizzia. This film feels like it has an increased symbolism right now as a way of wandering back out into the world, shifting expectations and taking stock of what still matters, relevant themes to enhance the viewing experience and guide its main character along his equally frustrating and amusing journey.


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