Monday, October 10, 2022

I Think We're Alone Now

In a post-apocalyptic world, Del, played very well by Peter Dinklage, seems to be the last man alive.  He lives in a small town in New York state, and he has taken it upon himself to bury the 1600 other residents who are all dead.  He is content with his solitary life, but that life is turned upside down when Grace comes to town.  Whereas he is very reserved and introverted, she is the exact opposite.

The cause of the apocalypse is never explained because the characters have no idea what happened.  Del doesn't even care; he wants mostly to be left alone.

Later we are introduced to a questionable character, played by Paul Giamatti, who I really loved in the HBO series John Adams.

The words "slow burn" are popular now to describe some entertainment, especially science fiction, that moves at a slow pace.  We have certainly seen that in several series and movies.  The French TV series "Les Revenants" is extraordinarily good and very popular in Europe, but the story doesn't seem to go anywhere.  The Apple TV series "Invasion" is nothing but a slow burn and fails to deliver.  The Amazon series "Outer Range" is definitely a slow burn but keeps the viewer interested   The Disney+ series "Andor" turns slow burn into high art.  You see the same pattern in some movies, such as "The Vast of the Night", "Annihilation", and "Signal."

There is a reason for all this.  Good science fiction is extremely expensive to make.  Cheap science fiction typically has at most just one good idea.  In the beginning, they will introduce a mystery, keep the audience in suspense, and then reveal the one good idea at the end.  We see this pattern way too often.  The special effect at the end of the movie "Signal" is so brief that if you just happen to close your eyes for a couple of seconds then you will miss it along with the point of the entire movie.  This is what cheap science fiction looks like.

The main issue is whether a slow-burn series or movie can hold our attention long enough and end well enough to make us glad that we watched it?

I initially didn't think of "I Think We're Alone Now" as a science fiction film, but it is told in three parts which are quite different from each other.  The first part is about post-apocalyptic survival.  The second part is an awkward romance and the third part involves a twist that takes the film into "Outer Limits" territory, although I have seen better twists in better movies.

The movie has a 63% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Much of the criticism revolves around people not liking all three parts or feeling that it is disjointed or too slow.  The final twist might have been too much for some people.

However, the movie totally worked for me.  Even though the pace is slow, it progresses just fast enough to keep me interested.  It stretches the suspense out but keeps the story moving.  Also, Peter Dinklage is a good enough actor to turn the movie into a fascinating character study, otherwise, I think that the film would not work at all.  The payoff at the end isn't particularly great, but it is not bad either.

I am trying to figure out if there is a deeper meaning to the film, and I am not coming up with much.  It could be a study on dealing with grief and loneliness.  The ending could be a metaphor for "haves" versus "have-nots", but I am stretching here.  The film touches on other issues such as obsessive behavior, authoritarian control, and cults.

The movie is rated R perhaps for its post-apocalyptic subject matter, but I saw very little that people would find offensive.  A more appropriate rating would have been PG-13 for some swearing.

Rating: B. The movie is streaming on Hulu.

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