THE STORY – Cyrus convinces Shelby to attend old friend Reuben’s pre-wedding party and reunites with college pals. Tension arise when estranged classmate Forbes arrives. Rivalries and old romance flare up as the game goes off the rails, causing hysteria.
THE CAST – Brittany O’Grady, James Morosini, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Devon Terrell, Gavin Leatherwood, Reina Hardesty, Nina Bloomgarden & David W. Thompson
THE TEAM – Greg Jardin (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 103 Minutes
Lately, there’s extra value in films considered “just fun.” For all the satisfaction that can come from watching an unquestionably well-made, probing film, plenty of movies lately have found appreciation from even the most cerebral of cinephiles based solely on their entertainment factor. “It’s What’s Inside” is just that – it is the very definition of a crowd-pleaser (which makes its sale to Netflix even more disappointing as it ensures that most people will see it with only a handful of friends at best, but that’s neither here nor there). It gets a bit tangled up in itself as the film carries on – quite literally, in fact – but the slick filmmaking and energized, specific performances ensure that viewers are in for an enjoyable time.
So much of the film’s story is best left unrevealed, as the twists and turns it takes work better when they’re surprises. But the film concerns a group of younger millennials reuniting for their friend Reuben’s (Devon Terrell) wedding. While they were all close in college and vaguely stayed in touch thanks to social media, one member of the group hasn’t been seen in years – Forbes (David Thompson). He separated himself from the group after a dramatic event led to his expulsion from their school. Now, in the name of smoothing things over, Forbes arrives with a mysterious suitcase in tow, which contains something strange that just might bring the group back together.
I can’t reveal the suitcase’s contents, but what transpires after it’s opened is wildly entertaining. The general concept for the film is so smart and perfectly cinematic. The revelation leads to all sorts of hilarious escapades and misunderstandings, eventually culminating in some intentionally convoluted situations. In fact, things get so knotted up that it can be hard to keep track of everything, which is partially purposeful given the details of the plot. But it is easy to get lost. Once the film starts winding down, it starts to feel as if writer-director Greg Jardin had an excellent pitch for the film, but the specifics about how to wrap the story up aren’t as clear or compelling.
Jardin guides the film with a steady, visually dynamic style that’s essential to the success of the twisty nature of the film. The introduction of the friends is particularly impressive – played out as one long take, the camera moves through the group in a way that reflects the overwhelmed feeling of the main couple – Shelby (Brittany O’Grady) and Cyrus (James Morosini) – upon being thrust back into their old college dynamics. Luckily, not only are each of the characters clearly defined, playing upon broad stereotypes of young thirty-somethings still struggling to find their purpose, but the ensemble members are all well-equipped to bring specificity to their characterizations. This turns out to be a gift that helps guide the audience through some of the more complicated segments. All the actors turn in well-crafted work, with Thompson, in particular, delivering an unnerving performance that is perfect for his suspicious character.
The smooth camerawork is occasionally disrupted by busy and scattered editing that mimics the frantic nature of social media. It also serves to underline how unreliable both the memory and the loyalties of this group of so-called friends are, as we see in several hilarious sequences where visuals are used to illustrate characters’ stories. The score also adds to the film’s ebullient tone, featuring updates of familiar classical pieces.
“It’s What’s Inside” is a trippy, vivacious film that feels like attending a chaotic house party, with all the requisite tension and turmoil that comes from years of shared history and drama between friends. It may not end as cleanly as it begins, but the ride is a fun one all the same.