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There is a bit of a bait-and-switch in certain movies where a premise is set up at the start, only to be flipped by the mid-point, twisting the narrative and audience expectations. Mark and Jay Duplass have consistently produced films that fall under this umbrella, quirky, often jarring experiences that test and challenge viewers, creating movies that are well off the norm, if not always entertaining.
With Take Me, that premise is comedy, set up at the start with a purposefully uncomfortable funny bit that twangs on Coen Brother strings, introducing us to a genuinely creepy and yet endearing fellow with a concept he has for a money-making venture, only to see him and everything around him plunge in a nightmare of deeply dark humor and psychological horror, or so we think. This is a sensational roller-coaster ride by two actors with impeccable timing.
Ray Moody (Pat Healy) thinks he has a great idea, one that he’s already put into practice with some positive results. He kidnaps willing clients who are struggling with issues and need ways to shake them of their demons. When he applies for a loan to start a legit business plan, it doesn’t go so well and like usual, he’s out of money. Lucky for him, he then gets a call from a woman named Anna St. Blair (Taylor Schilling), claiming she wants a kidnapping but with caveats, including some slapping, which she’s going to pay a lot of money for. However, when he pulls off the job, things go bad right from the start, and he quickly finds out that she and all this are not what he expected, it all unraveling into chaos the more he tries to keep it under control.
Directed by Healy, a long-time film and television character actor in his directorial debut, Take Me is really like a filmed stage play that amounts to essentially a two-person study on power and control with a bit of physical comedy. To say it is not what it looks like would be a bit of an understatement as it barrels along to its explosive third act where the confined spaces of these two oddballs reveal they are more alike than different, even as they seem on opposite ends of a widening caustic gap.
All of this would seem preposterous if it weren’t for the stellar work of Healy and Schilling who both deliver scathingly sharp performances so rich with black comedy that it’s often impossible to keep balance. Is it real or not? Who is playing whom? Schilling is utterly engrossing, tight-rope walking on the thinnest of lines as she has us believing one thing and then another, her swings from honest fear to carefully-delivered histrionics so piercing, we are never sure what is happening, or at least not until it all falls into place.
That’s credit also deserved to writer Mike Makowsky, whose script is never laugh-out-loud, but better yet, more like a slow simmering ‘ah-ha’ that rejoices in the humor once it’s over. There’s nuance everywhere that, along with Healy’s direction, really layer it in satire as well, like the subtle sound of a lawnmower echoing during a key suburban moment, or the choice made while preparing a can of instant soup. It’s bits like this that really help to sell the whole screwballness of it all and why the payoff works as well as it does.
Take Me is a throwback to some older genre-specific comedies and while many might not appreciate the delicate spinning plates act Healy and Schilling put on, for those watching carefully, this will be a hugely rewarding experience.
Movie description: Take Me is a 2017 crime, comedy about a curious character who specializes in simulated kidnapping, but gets more than he can handle when his latest client is what she claims to be.
Director(s): Pat Healy
Actor(s): Taylor Schilling, Pat Healy
Genre: Crime, Comedy