Through the nineties and early aughts, slackers were a cornerstone of indie cinema. You remember the type: quirky cashiers or failed musicians who smoked weed and waxed poetic about pop culture and consumerism and the cosmos—a decidedly Gen Xer brand of navel-gazing preaching “stick it to the Man” from an unmade futon.
Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town harks back to this heyday, looking up to slacker gems with equally literal titles (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Dude, Where’s My Car?, etc.) like their admiring, millennial little sister. But there’s one big difference: the slacker here is a woman, perfectly embodied by up-and-comer Mackenzie Davis.
Female screw-ups are becoming more and more of a trend, as they should. Movie men have been given free reign to loaf and laze through life since the dawn of the genre, leaving their lady friends with the staid job of fretting over adult things like getting a job, or just a grip on reality. Trainwreck was a triumph in this respect—an emphatic so there! to all the man-child comedies bearing Judd Apatow’s name.
The debut film from writer-director Christian Papierniak, Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town is a gratifying continuation of that legacy, which makes it all the more unfortunate that the movie has little else to offer. It’s a scrappy, madcap indie that’s clearly less interested in any semblance of stylistic or emotional consistency than it is in just keeping us dizzy. Its moments of charm are few and fleeting.
The premise is simple: riot grrrl turned slacker Izzy needs to traverse Los Angeles by evening. Her mission? Break up the engagement party of her ex-boyfriend, whom she thinks she’s fated to be with forever. The day begins in a stranger’s bed, Izzy’s makeup smeared and her hangover already hitting. She has a foggy memory of the night before—something about a showdown with her catering boss that culminated in blood and wine splattered across her uniform—but she’s not particularly concerned. We’re meant to assume this isn’t her first drunken rodeo.
Her trek unfolds predictably from there, introducing a succession of oddball Californians who Izzy pleads with and sweet-talks and threatens into helping her along her way. To name just a few: the scholarly one-night-stand who drives her home (Lakeith Stanfield), the con artist wearing a bubblegum-pink power suit who provides a partial ride (Alia Shawkat), the agoraphobic painter who offers a vodka shot and a child’s scooter (Annie Potts). In total, the cameos accrue an impressive voltage of star power given the brevity and banality of each run-in.
But the most memorable scenes—and these ones are truly affecting—belong to the brilliantly talented Carrie Coon (known for The Leftovers, but she’s on her way to big places), who plays Izzy’s older sister, Virginia. Together, the pair used to perform as a semi-successful punk-rock duo, and making it big in the music world is a pipe dream that Izzy still won’t let go. “We played South By!” she exclaims at one point before a friend clarifies: “That was three years ago.”
Still, after some light badgering from Virginia’s wholesome husband (Transparent’s Rob Huebel), the sister-duo does get one acoustic performance in: a duet covering Heavens to Betsy’s “Axemen.” As they sing, an evolution of emotion plays out across Coon and Davis’ faces. It’s nothing more than pure, skillful acting, and it makes the sequence the subtlest and most meaningful in a film that thrives on pointlessness.
But pointlessness can be an end-all in itself in the slacker genre. A fixation on synchronicity—the peculiar movements of life and whether they’re driven by fate or randomness—is a central theme for the jaded and aimless. It’s certainly of crucial concern to Izzy, who tries to convince peer after peer to buy into her belief. “Every place I go today, there’s some sign confirming for me that this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing,” she enthuses to a basic stranger. Getting back together with her ex isn’t just her goal, it’s her straight-up destiny.
But herein lies the challenge with slacker movies then and slacker movies now: they’re steeped in solipsism. And it’s hard to care about Izzy’s perceived fate when the chaos she’s cutting through is so damn dull. The film tries to up the ante with technical flourishes like split-screen and augmented coloring and a punk-rock soundscape, but the majority of it feels forced and obvious.
Izzy’s a great female slacker, flaky and rowdy in equal measures, but always full of moxie. It’s just a shame that her electricity has to power the film, and not vice versa.