Rid of Me Dir. James Westby

[Alcove/Parkwood East; 2011]

Styles: dark comedy
Others: 500 Days of Summer, SLC Punk

With Rid of Me, writer/director James Westby gives us a lightweight dark comedy about an insecure young woman named Meris (Katie O’Grady) in a mismatched marriage to a cheeseball perfectly named Mitch (John Keyser). Both Meris and the marriage rapidly unravel when the couple moves to Mitch’s hometown in Oregon. Meris doesn’t quite mesh (to put it mildly) with Mitch’s group of high school cheeseball friends; from the moment they walk into a surprise welcome home party thrown by the friends, it’s clear Meris is experiencing a military ambush rather than a supposedly fun gathering.

But the film isn’t designed to explore beneath the glossy fable of extremes. How else are we to understand the caricatured douchiness of Mitch’s friends, a bunch of vapid, exceedingly preppy people who make racist jokes and seem to have the combined IQ and sensitivity of one amoeba? Or what about Mitch’s being married to Meris in the first place? Sure, Meris is something of a zero herself, but she does seem to be in possession of a much broader worldview (that of course complements her more hipster-leaning wardrobe). With scant explanation and few details of their courtship — they apparently eloped; Mitch had shaggy hair in an old photo instead of the close-cropped cut he now sports — the chemistry of the characters just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense

Westby instead forces us to focus on the style and local details of this standard tale of romantic rejection and humiliation that, yes, gives way to liberation and self-discovery. And indeed, the fun there is to be had is in these details: post-dumping, Meris joins ranks with a couple misfits behind the counter of a candy shop and becomes friends with a group of punks who range from anarchic to plain disgusting (one can puke on command and — spoiler alert — does). The comedy itself certainly doesn’t coddle the audience; it simply delivers cringe-inducing realities on an un-garnished plate. In a classic “I’m not over you” setback, both Meris and Mitch show up to the same karaoke joint with their respective posses. After much liquor and encouragement, a heavily eyeliner’d Meris gets on stage. Of course, we expect some kind of “I Will Survive” anthem, but Meris instead screeches out a weepy love ballad, looks right at Mitch and his new girl, and squeaks, “I thought what we had was really special, but good for you guys.” It’s deliciously horrifying.

It doesn’t help that, in portraying Meris’ often unstable mental state, Rid of Me employs a very obtrusive soundtrack and worked-over montages that are sometimes revealing but mostly just grating. The film is like a strange-flavored taffy you’ll unwrap one night and savor for a minute, before realizing that not only will the enjoyment pass quickly, but perhaps it was the wrong choice to begin with.

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