Watching Mackenzie Davis in the low-budget indie Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town had me thinking about Cary Grant in that most Hollywood of classics, Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.
That’s not because of the acting by the leads, which is masterful in both, but because Davis spends most of Izzy’s 86-minute runtime sweating up a storm in the same outfit, as did Grant’s Roger O. Thornhill.
Both characters nearly took me out of their pictures as I wondered to myself how badly they must have smelled by the third acts, although Thornhill does at least stop to get his overworked suit pressed. Compounding matters for Davis is my transposing the imagined odor of her Cameron Howe after marathon video game coding sessions on AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire. Halt and catch a shower, please!
Fortunately, writer-director Christian Papierniak’s feature debut—which is known on marquees and in movie ads as Izzy Gets the F— Across Town or Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town—is so inventive and captivating that you hang with it anyway. It’s a cinematic concoction that might be duplicated were you to mix The Graduate, The Party and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in a blender, strain out the penises and Hollywood excess, add a dash of Heavens to Betsy’s 1994 CD Calculated and let it all come to a decidedly DIY boil.
Which brings us back to Davis, whose Izzy is crash landing into the day when being a hot mess as a late twentysomething will be deemed pathetic. We first meet her waking up hungover, nearly naked and unaware of where exactly she is in Los Angeles. Adding to the mystery is the passed-out guy (Atlanta’s Lakeith Stanfield) next to her in bed. After slipping back into the dirty uniform from her one-and-done catering job the night before, Izzy finds out with whom she hooked up while black-out drunk so that she can bum a ride home.
Not only is it not really Izzy’s home, but it is demanded by the couple whose name is on the lease that she vacate their couch. More worrisome to Izzy is news she just learned on Instagram: Her ex-boyfriend and ex-BFF are celebrating their looming nuptials at a bougie party that will start in several hours in the hills of Los Feliz.
Before reading the social-media post, Izzy did not even know of the relationship, which she is convinced she must break up because her ex is supposed to live happily ever after with her. But our penniless protagonist is so relatively new to the Southland, which she came to at the behest of her sister to jointly pursue a riot grrrl rock music career, that she mispronounces Los Feliz.
That’s just one of her cross-town trip’s many obstacles, which allow Izzy to pause long enough to interact with colorful characters in a sun-bleached LA that is far from the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
I found Davis and her moon-sized light blue eyes most compelling in scenes opposite another woman, as she previously demonstrated with Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Kerry Bishé on Black Mirror and Halt and Catch Fire, respectively. As Izzy, Davis’ scene mates include Annie Potts (Designing Women), Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Carrie Coon (The Leftovers), Dolly Wells (Doll & Em) and Sarah Goldberg (Barry). That’s solid casting for such a small film.
Men in the cast are no slouches either, whether they are seasoned dramatic actors such as Stanfield and Alex Russell (S.W.A.T.) or comedic actors like Haley Joel Osment (Silicon Valley) and Rob Huebel (Transparent). Standup comic Kyle Kinane, who is the voice of Comedy Central, also deserves a shout-out for his feral cameo.
For a project by a male filmmaker whose biggest credit to date is directing the mighty video game franchise NBA2K, Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town has a decidedly feminine tone, which is so refreshing these days. That may have something to do with what I noticed as the end credits rolled, after the title card for Papierniak: several more in a row identified female producers, including Davis.
Add to that the central role played by the Heavens to Betsy song “axemen,” which is heard in its original form by the band and in a surprisingly poignant duet sung by Coon and Davis, and it’s small wonder Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town passes the smell test.
Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town was written and directed by Christian Papierniak; and stars Mackenzie Davis, Carrie Coon, Alex Russell, Alia Shawkat and Haley Joel Osment. Opens June 22 at AMC Fullerton 20 and Edwards University Town Center 6, Irvine.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.