×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

It’s a Disaster

A toxic device detonated in downtown Los Angeles ruins an otherwise routine couples' brunch in the slow to start, fun to finish "It's a Disaster," a smart, character-driven chamber play in which the cataclysmic offscreen event escalates the tensions between four already testy pairs.

With:
With: Julia Stiles, David Cross, America Ferrera, Erinn Hayes, Jeff Grace, Rachel Boston, Kevin M. Brennan, Blaise Miller, Todd Berger, Laura Adkin, Rob McGillivray, Jesse Draper.

A toxic device detonated in downtown Los Angeles ruins an otherwise routine couples’ brunch in the slow-to-start, fun-to-finish “It’s a Disaster,” a smart, character-driven chamber play in which the cataclysmic offscreen event escalates the tensions between four already testy pairs. Premiering at the Los Angeles Film Festival alongside the similarly themed “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” writer-director Todd Berger’s second feature boasts a strong enough script and cast to attract modest indie distribution, marking a solid resume-builder for all involved.

Pete (Blaise Miller) and Emma (Erinn Hayes) have been hosting Sunday brunch with their closest friends forever, but this weekend, they’re planning to drop a bomb on the group: After years of marriage, the seemingly perfect couple is splitting up. The news would no doubt dominate the gang’s weekly reunion if someone else — maybe terrorists, maybe aliens — hadn’t dropped a real bomb a few miles away.

A nerve-gas cloud is slowly spreading toward them, and audiences have reason to be grateful, since it radically shifts the focus away from the superficial small-talk of the overlong first act. If such an incident can have a silver lining, it’s how radically the offscreen attack improves the drama of an otherwise insufferable get-together. Once the guests figure out the explanation for all the sirens and power outages, Emma’s vegan quiche suddenly doesn’t seem so important.

Since most of the brunch-goers have known each other for years, Berger introduces a well-meaning newcomer to serve as audience surrogate: David Cross, still in daffy “Arrested Development” mode, plays Glenn, who arrives with Tracy (Julia Stiles), the one gal in the group who can’t seem to hold a boyfriend. By contrast, Buck (Kevin Brennan) and Lexi (Rachel Boston) are frisky, while Shane (Jeff Grace) and Hedy (America Ferrera) have been engaged longer than many marriages last.

As for Tracy, sooner or later, all her boyfriends turn out to be crazy, which must explain why she’s chosen someone as safe as Glenn. Cross is ready-built for the kind of awkward comedy that ensues whenever he tries to connect with such a close-knit clique, as when the poor outsider is propositioned by a couple looking for one last three-way.

Considering how shrill and obnoxious everyone seems when Glenn and Tracy come onto the scene, it’s uncanny how Berger manages to win over the audience. Still, by the film’s hilariously hopeless ending, many will be feeling a mild form of Stockholm Syndrome, having been captivated in these desperate final hours by such a colorful group of clearly delineated characters.

Part of the fun is watching how such extreme circumstances change the various individuals’ personalities. Ferrera goes into shock, and Stiles gets pushed aside somewhat because Cross is needed to serve as a go-between with all the others. But Berger’s script does a fine job of giving each of the characters a reasonably juicy reaction to both the situation and the various unresolved issues in their relationships.

The writer-director, who makes a cameo as a nutty neighbor, doesn’t indulge any especially wild or creative choices behind the camera. Rather, he shrewdly sticks to a screenplay dense with clever jokes and punchy conversation, but that’s more than enough to carry the concept.

Whether serious (“Testament”) or satiric (“Zombieland”), any film concerned with the fallout of a major disaster depends heavily on character, and this is where all the attention paid to building a believable ensemble pays off. Auds may not care about this gang when the party starts, but once the dust settles, you’ve gotta admit, they made for pretty good company.

Popular on Variety

It's a Disaster

Production: Produced by Kevin M. Brennan, Jeff Grace, Gordon Bijelonic, Datari Turner. Executive producers, Brett D. Thompson, Eric Sherman, Robert P. Gosling, Krysanne Katsoolis, Mark Korshak, Alison Lee, John Margetis, Rob McGillivray, Caroline Stevens. Co-producer, Matthew Kovner. Co-executive producer, Thoma Kikis. Directed, written by Todd Berger.

Crew: Camera (color), Nancy Schreiber; editor, Franklin Peterson; music supervisor, Chris Martins; production designer, Peter K. Benson; art director, Gigi Barbes; costume designer, Karen Mann; sound, Sam Hamer; sound designer/re-recording sound mixer, Andy Hay; supervising sound editors, Jesse Pomeroy, Paul Stanley; visual effects supervisor, Aaron Arendt; associate producers, Jordan Marks, Elizabeth Scully, Dean Katamanin; casting, Hannah Cooper. Reviewed at Los Angeles Film Festival (competing), June 23, 2012. Running time: 89 MINS.

With: With: Julia Stiles, David Cross, America Ferrera, Erinn Hayes, Jeff Grace, Rachel Boston, Kevin M. Brennan, Blaise Miller, Todd Berger, Laura Adkin, Rob McGillivray, Jesse Draper.

More Film

  • Joker

    How 'Joker' Production Designer and Costume Designer Brought New Color to a Familiar World

    The partnership between a film’s production designer and costume designer is an important one. One creates the outfits and the look of the character, the other creates the world that the viewer disappears into. Together, they collaborate to reinforce the visuals of the film. Todd Phillips’ “Joker” is a world where production designer Mark Friedberg [...]

  • History-of-the-Occult

    Blood Window Announces 2019 WIP and World Premiere Lineup (EXCLUSIVE)

    Ventana Sur’s Blood Window sidebar for projects and films in progress has been a standout event on the Latin horror calendar since its launch in 2013, and is one of the Buenos Aires market’s most popular sections. In the following years, it has become a key two-way conduit between Latin American and international festivals and [...]

  • Scarlett Johansson Chris Evans Actors on

    Why Chris Evans Thinks Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver Need Oscars for 'Marriage Story'

    Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”) isn’t afraid to ask for another take and she encourages young actors to do the same. Johansson revealed her thought process behind multiple takes while shooting during an intimate conversation with Chris Evans (“Knives Out”) for “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.” “I feel like if you have an idea — and [...]

  • 'Harriet' Movie: Why It Doesn't Mention

    Why 'Harriet' Doesn't Mention the $20 Bill

    In “Harriet,” directed and co-written by Kasi Lemmons, Cynthia Erivo plays Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery, joined the Underground Railroad and then freed more than 70 people from slavery. (Spoilers about the movie ahead.) Though Tubman died in 1913 at age 91, the movie ends during the Civil War, with Tubman leading a troop of [...]

  • Frank Grillo Maggie Q

    Frank Grillo, Maggie Q to Star in Thriller 'Cutman' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Frank Grillo and Maggie Q will star in “Cutman,” a dramatic thriller directed by Michael Mailer and written by Tiffany Heath. Grillo will play an over-the-hill boxer who begins working as the muscle for a local gangster. His life takes an unexpected turn when he meets a young girl whose mother is a heroin addict [...]

  • Jamie Foxx Renee Zellweger Shuzhen Zhao

    Oscar Predictions 2019: Breaking Down the Early Frontrunners

    The Oscar race is on. Renée Zellweger is a sure bet to snag a nomination for her transformation in “Judy” and Adam Driver looks certain to be a nominee for his work in Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story.” In the lead for best picture are movies including “The Irishman,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and [...]

  • Chris Evans Actors on Actors: Film

    Chris Evans Wants to Direct Again, but Needs a Better Script

    Chris Evans (“Knives Out”) is dying to direct a film, he just doesn’t have the material. Evans, who made his directorial debut in 2014 with “Before We Go,” revealed what’s holding him back from a sophomore film — and much more — during a conversation with former co-star Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”) for “Variety Studio: [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content