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Saturday, June 15, 2019

LONERS -- Movie Review by Porfle

If you are or have ever been a loner, chances are you may identify with at least one of the lead characters in the 2019 indie comedy LONERS. 

Especially when they become perilously persecuted for their solitary tendencies, forced to wear a tracking headband emblazoned with a big red "L" and capable of delivering electric shocks, and assigned to group therapy presided over by a hippy-dippy dork with a remote electro-zap button in case you don't get with the program.

Yes, it's a dystopian near-future where the government has decided that too many mass killings are committed by "loners" and the best way to stop them is to identify all the loners in society (or rather out of it) and force them to be sociable.

But of course it's not as clear-cut as that, which we learn watching some of the people in charge of the program and seeing how messed up they are as they eavesdrop on those they deem unstable.

There are, in fact, various factions at odds with each other both in and out of the Department of Homeland Security, one of them played by familiar character actor Stephen Tobolowsky (GROUNDHOG DAY), which lends Neil McGowan's screenplay some of its interesting elements of mystery.

But the real fun here is meeting the group of loners and watching them trying to deal with it all as they attend the insufferable group therapy sessions with all their fake cheer and idiotic role-playing games designed to teach everyone how to mingle with others and enjoy their company. 

This is a generally irascible bunch who enjoy their solitude, so seeing them chafe as their flaky group leader flits around conducting "get to know ya" exercises, all the time with his finger on the remote zapper, is very amusing.

And then there's the weekly "poker night" where everyone gets together at someone's apartment and holds hands for an hour because they've found that this somehow fulfills their physical interaction quota for the week and keeps the SWAT squad from breaking their doors down. 

It's fun listening to them bicker endlessly about every little thing, especially since we know that these misfits are eventually going to form a modest rebel alliance against the state.  A new member of the group, Senise (Melissa Paladino), shakes things up and helps build a fire under the others until they finally start trying to overcome their personal differences and work together.

It's the first feature by director Eryc Tramonn, who has a snappy visual style that keeps even the more static scenes moving.  The cast is filled with outstanding actors including Paladino, Brian Letscher as failed athlete Lincoln Chalk, scripter McGowan as timid weakling Dabney Spargle, Tyson Turrou as hostile landscaper Tanner, Brenda Davidson as mousey librarian Franny, and Khary Payton as Jeremy, who's too crazy even for their motley group of misfits.

We get to watch their progress from one session to another as this talented ensemble perform their characters as though they've been doing it on the theater stage for awhile (some scenes, in fact, make this feel like a well-written play adapted for the screen). 

Senise's attempts to get her group peers to form a deeper interest in each other's personal lives are also filled with funny moments and even a few that veer  close to actual drama.  (Albeit, thankfully, not too close.)

Just as the film seems to be sticking strictly to light comedy and satire, however, the shadowy government figures behind the "loners" program move against its organized opposition with our heroes right in the middle, leading to a suspenseful, surprising, and even twisty final sequence that really ties this modestly mirthful romp up in a nice bow.  And needless to say, LONERS is the ideal comedy to watch by yourself.

Amazon Instant Video

Our Original Coverage/Press Release


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