THE STORY – A mosaic-style comedy following the life of a woman as time passes in her long-term casual BDSM relationship, low-level corporate job, and quarrelsome Jewish family.
THE CAST – Scott Cohen, Babak Tafti, Joanna Arnow, Michael Cyril Creighton & Alysia Reiner
THE TEAM – Joanna Arnow (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 87 Minutes
Joanna Arnow’s impossibly-titled “The Feeling That The Time For Doing Something Has Passed” is a prime example of a creature once plentiful but now rarely seen– the New York indie comedy. Funny, quirky, and a little rough around the edges, such comedies, often starring their indie auteurs, had an energy and a scrappiness that typified what it meant to be young and free in the big city in the 1970s and 80s. For whatever reason — whether the times have changed or the indie film market has — they largely disappeared…that is, until Arnow’s disarmingly fresh new film.
Arnow, a comic book writer and Brooklyn-based filmmaker who came to prominence with her 2013 video diary “I hate myself :),” follows that vignette-based format in this narrative feature debut. She stars as Ann, a put-upon 33-year-old low-level office worker who is beginning to get the feeling that time is running out. She’s being micromanaged at work by her boss (“Only Murders in the Building’s” Michael Cyril Creighton), browbeaten by her overbearing Jewish family, and, in her spare time, serves as a submissive in a long-standing BDSM relationship with a bored older man (Scott Cohen). Ennui is everywhere, and Ann’s feeling beaten down on all fronts.
As her sister (Alysia Reiner) arrives for yet another annoying visit, Ann decides to seek new men in her life, leading to a string of further disappointments. Sadly, Elliot (Parish Bradley), who dresses Ann up as “Fuck Pig,” complete with ears, snout, and ball gag, and sex-driven film composer Thomas (Peter Vack) are the comparative cream of the crop. That is until she meets Chris (Babak Tafti), a relative “normie” who somehow, even after learning of Ann’s sexual kinks, doesn’t run in the other direction. Could Chris possibly be the one?
Unlike most indie comedies of the 1970s and 80s that used a conventional through-line to tell their stories, Arnow chooses to structure her film as a series of comic vignettes, often no longer than a single dialogue exchange. It’s a bold directorial approach that can offer big payoffs but also risks downsides. The upside is that if the jokes in one vignette after another land, the film can establish a comic rhythm that can help carry it through the narrative. The negative is that if the jokes don’t work, the film’s flow is impaired, and the audience may become impatient, which is never a good thing. Fortunately for Arnow, her batting average for laughs in the film is pretty high.
Still, the chopped-up narrative form poses a challenge for any actor to create a sustained character arc. Fortunately, Arnow has surrounded herself with a cast that is up to the task. Creighton is, as always, a dependable delight, Bradley, Vack, and Tafti score in their suitor roles, and Cohen is a droll delight as Ann’s lethargic BDSM master, particularly when he issues commands in the most blasé manner possible.
Much of Arnow’s cringe comedy comes at her own expense, and as Ann, she’s not afraid to humiliate herself if that’s what’s needed for a scene. For example, in several sequences where Ann is fully nude, Arnow photographs herself in the most uncomfortable way possible, thus sending the cringe factor soaring. But her deadpan line readings are expert throughout, and her directorial style — a stationary camera allowing for medium shots of multiple characters — is perfectly suited to the material.
To be sure, much of the subject matter of “The Feeling That The Time For Doing Something Has Passed” — finding a date, problems at work, millennial malaise — has been done before, and in some cases, better. The overbearing Jewish family, for example, has become a tiresome cliché in comedy films, but what helps to make it work here is that at least the kvetching is fresh from her hilarious parents (played by Arnow’s real-life mother and father, Barbara Weiserbs and David Arnow).
If elements of “The Feeling That The Time For Doing Something Has Passed” feel familiar, the delight of seeing a youthful New York comedy on the big screen again makes the effort so worthwhile. If to belabor a baseball metaphor, Arnow hasn’t quite yet hit it out of the park; this film is a solid double and one that announces to the film world a new voice and a promising director who knows just where the jokes are.