B.J. Novak’s Hauntingly Honest Clout Chasing Directorial Debut, ‘Vengeance‘ Shines a light on the desire for fame and notoriety in the 21st century.
B.J. Novak makes his directorial debut with a film I thought was going to be the absolute drizzling sh!ts in ‘Vengeance‘. Thankfully, he proved me wrong.
Following a prelude in a Texas oil field, ‘Vengeance‘ quickly cuts to Ben Manalowitz (Novak) a douche case (because a single bag couldn’t contain his douchie behavior) and friend played by John Mayer discussing their womanizing ways using their agreeable catch phrase “One-hundred percent”, possibly a 21st century tribute to Jon Favreau’s ‘Swingers‘ infamous, “Money” line.
Ben is a self-righteous, condescending, egomaniac, podcaster who thinks he knows what’s best for the world…I could have just said New Yorker, but I need to fill up the word count.
One night via another meaningless encounter, with a woman who barely remembers her name, he receives a call from frantic Texan, Ty Shaw (Boyd Holbrook) that his sister Abilene Shaw (Lio Tipton), who claimed to be Ben’s girlfriend was murdered and that he needed to attend the family funeral in their rural Texas town.
Never one to miss an opportunity, Ben pitches a podcast regarding Abilene’s death to fellow soul sucker, Eloise (Issa Rae) who jumps at the idea of another dead white girl murder podcast, having Ben stay a handful of weeks in Texas with the family, pretending to be her devastated lover in order to get to the roots of the tragic demise of this sweet, Southern Belle.
Clues are dropped throughout the film, especially with Abilene’s two sisters Paris (Isabella Amara) and Jasmine (Dove Cameron) who are both seeking fame. Along with the cast of characters within the family, whether Ty is seeking vengeance by going after a local Mexican drug lord, or music producer, Quentin Sellers (Ashton Kutcher) who all claim that Abilene would not so much have taken an aspirin, let alone overdosed on drugs, nothing is ever as it fully seems in ‘Vengeance‘.
What is absolutely refreshing about ‘Vengeance‘ is that Novak shines a light on clout chasing and the desire for celebrity at all costs. He never truly cared about Abilene as a person, but as Kutcher’s character points out, falls in love with the idea and legacy of the dead girl. Ben’s condescension is matched by the townspeople secrecy and double talk as they play up being rubes in order to feed Ben’s disdain for those not of his ilk. At one point, Ben states as to how simple everything was that it took him so long to see it plainly.
‘Vengeance‘ blurs the lines between Blue State pomposity and Red State secrecy, leaving both with dark Purple Bruises in a take on humanity’s desire to be loved and adored.
‘Vengeance‘ hits theaters on Friday, July 29, 2022, from Focus Features.
- Overall Score
B.J. Novak’s ‘Vengeance‘ is a slow burn thriller with comedic elements that shines a light on how far people will go for fame and notoriety, no matter the cost.