AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2012
By Don Simpson | October 25, 2012
Director: Todd Berger
Writer: Todd Berger
Starring: David Cross, Julia Stiles, America Ferrera, Blaise Miller, Kevin Brennan, Jeff Grace, Erinn Hayes, Rachel Boston, Jesse Draper, Todd Berger, Rob McGillivray
When everyone arrives at Emma (Erinn Hayes) and Pete’s (Blaise Miller) house, they have absolutely no idea just how disastrous this Sunday brunch will become. First their cell phone reception goes dead, then the television goes to static. What? No UT football game? Now the shit gets serious! (Hook ‘em!) Cut off from the rest of the world, the four couples are left with a table covered with food and wine, and good old fashioned conversation; yet, in a captivating tip of the cap to Luis Buñuel, they never quite get to the food…
This is Tracy’s (Julia Stiles) latest boyfriend, Glenn’s (David Cross) first time meeting her friends. Glenn is not quite one of the guys, nonetheless Pete, Shane (Jeff Grace) and Buck (Kevin Brennan) try to accept him into their fold. As the outsider, Glenn is the first to get (or not) a hint of Emma and Pete’s current dilemma. Glenn also falls prey to Lexi (Rachel Boston) and Buck’s open and free relationship. Despite Lexi and Buck’s eagerness to fuck anything that moves, their relationship is apparently the strongest of the bunch; even the prolonged engagement of Hedy (America Ferrera) and Shane is apparently at its wit’s end.
It is not their disconnection from the outside world or the wail of sirens that rattles this bunch; instead, it is a cameo by writer-director Todd Berger that kicks the tension into high gear. Each character’s reaction to Berger’s cleverly injected news represents a different stage of grief. When the shit hits the fan, we quickly learn what is more important: interpersonal relationships or survival instincts? For these self-involved thirtysomethings, it seems to be the former; well, except for Shane, the token paranoid conspiracy theory nut of the bunch.
It’s a Disaster is an impeccably-written, dark-as-a-moonless-night satire that hearkens back to the glory days of classic comedy. Existing in the surreal ether somewhere between Preston Sturges and Woody Allen, Berger takes on disaster films as well as the trope of trapping characters in one location; all the while, Berger and cinematographer Nancy Schreiber beautifully choreograph the on screen events to Altman-esque precision.
Berger’s film is a sardonically-scribed social commentary on the priorities of privileged white thirtysomethings. By definition, terrorism incites terror; but, the characters of It’s a Disaster diffuse the terror of terrorism by being so damn self-involved. Sure, in due time they all eventually react to the terror that surrounds them; but, one thing can be certain, the characters of It’s a Disaster do not initially react the way the terrorists had hoped. God bless America and god bless Todd Berger — now just give me a sip of that god-damned Merlot.
(Check out my interview with Todd Berger from the 2012 Austin Film Fest screening of It’s a Disaster.)