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‘I’m Totally Fine’ (review)

I was sent a new indie movie to review this evening. It’s about a woman whose BFF dies suddenly. In a weird bit of synchronicity, a friend of mine died suddenly today as well. We weren’t close friends, but I had known her off and on for decades. In the movie, I’m Totally Fine, the friends were much closer, and the opening scenes depict the surviving friend’s grief in some of the most realistic scenes of such that I have ever seen in a movie.

Oh, did I mention this movie is a comedy? With a science fiction twist, yet!

I’m Totally Fine is clearly not a big-budget film and really isn’t that far from being just a two-person show. Well, it actually is pretty much just a two-person show with all of the other actors just passing through the plot.

Those two persons are actresses Jillian Bell and Natalie Morales, neither of whom I was familiar with going in. I’ve read up on them since and watched some earlier clips on YouTube. They’re both quite good whether doing comedy or drama.

Here, in a film where both of the women are listed as producers, they get to do both.  I’m Totally Fine is, from beginning to end, a movie about grief. It’s a sad feelgood movie about loss, memories, and friendship. And an alien.

Natalie Morales plays the alien. We never learn her character’s real name as she has assumed the likeness and memories of Vanessa’s just-deceased friend, Jennifer. Morales’ line delivery at first seems terrible, which, in context, makes it oddly perfect. Her quirky readings reminded me of Jeff Bridges’ similarly eccentric performance as an alien in the hit Starman back in the ‘80s.

Dispatched to Earth to observe/test a human woman for exactly 48 hours, the fact that the visitor Vanessa discovers in her kitchen looks exactly like—and has all the memories of—the friend and business partner she just buried quite naturally freaks her out, as well it should. As she slowly comes around to the fact that this isn’t just grief causing hallucinations, the realization hits that in a weird way, she gets to spend two more days with her lost loved one.

So, the testing begins. Little by little, though, unbeknownst to either character at first, “Jen” starts to take on some aspects of being human, of being Jennifer, and what follows is an unexpected bonding that goes to some pretty unexpected places.

The comedy is mostly gentle throughout, with some particular goofiness served up in scenes of a party Vanessa tries to cancel, failing every step of the way to do so. I wasn’t thrilled with the touting of a particularly dangerous drug but, in context, it doesn’t detract much from the scene.

It looks like most of the performers and even many of the behind-the-scenes folks have ties to each other from various other films or series. A number of the actors come from improv backgrounds. The woman playing the party planner and the guy acting the DJ are wonderfully amusing.

Natalie Morales and Jillian Bell create two characters here that you believe in and then give us just enough unreality to show the true realities of dealing with grief. Vanessa is given a bizarre gift, but, surprisingly, so is “Jennifer.” We all deal with grief in different ways but since one of the few constants in life is death, one of the most important things for us to do is to always remember…and celebrate those we lose.

Maybe my take on this picture was influenced by my own more distant loss on the day I saw it, but I’m Totally Fine is something special. You may feel the plot ends all too quickly, just as you’re really enjoying it…but that’s kind of the whole point, I suppose. You just never know when things might end. Cherish today.

I’m Totally Fine will be in Theaters, On Demand and Digital on November 4, 2022.

Booksteve recommends

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Jonas Dolkart, Kyle Newacheck
Written by Alisha Ketry
Directed by Brandon Dermer
Starring Natalie Morales, Jillian Bell, Kyle Newacheck,
Harvey Guillen, Blake Anderson, Cyrina Fiallo, Karen Maruyama

 

 

 

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