It’s the end of the world and she’s knows it. And she feels fine.
Or, at least, as good as she ever does.
Sarah is a constant complainer, a continuous kvetcher, a tireless buzzkill. So when she suddenly discovers that her entire world – everyone’s world – is merely a high-tech simulation that’s about to be shut down, her chief reaction is annoyance.
I mean, this. You created an artificial existence for humanity and this was the best you could do?
That’s the jumping-off point for Discontinued, a comic fantasy that plays like The Matrix as rewritten by a sarcastic stand-up.
The mix doesn’t quite work – the humor is far more successful than the science-fiction, which never jells. (A far better attempt at this subject was 2012’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, which starred Steve Carell as a sad-sack looking for just a little companionship before it was too late.)
But director Trevor Peckham, who began his filmmaking career as a cinematographer, at least knows how to make things look good. He gives his film a rich color palette, and consistently frames his characters to emphasize their distance – physical and emotional – from each other.
And he has a winning star in Ashley Hutchinson as Sarah, the moody millennial whose daily disappointments – judgmental parents, a bored therapist, dates from hell — will strike a chord with many.
As far as Sarah’s concerned, the end can’t come soon enough. In fact, at one point – assigned a humanlike simulation to guide her through all this – she’s told that, if she likes, she can simply choose to live the same select highpoints from her life over and over again.
And Sarah thinks, high points? And what would those be, exactly?
Peckham gets the most of a small cast and some limited locations, and Hutchinson never overdoes the eye-rolls as our so-over-this heroine, but the film feels a little sketchy, as if it were still a few drafts away from finished.
It’s bad enough that the science-fiction side of things feels half-baked, but so do the real-life details. If you’re going to ask us to go with a fanciful concept like this, we have to start from a believable place, but Sarah’s life – her romantic past, her worklife, her hopes – all remain frustratingly vague.
There are some good ideas in Discontinued. But in the end, this movie about a simulated world feels a bit like a simulation of a better film.