Yale Breakdown: Nancy, Please 


Nancy, Please
Directed by Andrew Semans

With a few rewrites, this could be a Ben Stiller comedy. But as it stands, director Semans's feature debut is a far darker spin—sadder, more violent and more destructive—on the crazy-neighbor comedy: like Dennis the Menace featuring mentally unbalanced adults. Paul (Will Rogers) is an adjunct at Yale who moves into a house with his girlfriend—if you notice New Haven sometimes looks a lot like Brooklyn, it's because much of the movie was shot in New York—leaving behind his sinisterly kooky roommate Nancy (indie favorite Eleonore Hendricks), known for playing Prokofiev at 3am and leaving her toenail clippings around. He's under a lot of stress: he's way behind with his dissertation, and there are squirrels nesting in his walls; the nicotine patches he puts on every morning suggest one more reason to be on edge. Worst of all, he forgot in the move his hardcover copy of Little Dorritt, whose marginalia he needs to finish his thesis. And he can't get Nancy to give it back to him.

What begins as a clash of reason (can I please have my book?) and irrationality (leave me alone!) soon becomes crazy-on-crazy. Suffering this uniquely academic nightmare, Paul settles into unreasonable desperation, displacing all of his anxieties onto a physical object and all of his frustrations onto the person keeping it from him; the book ceases to matter, becoming just a catalyst for his breakdown. Less than a cautionary tale about monomania, the film is about the dangers of the unexamined life. All of Paul's failures—his inabilities to produce a final paper or maintain his relationship—become to him not his fault but that of someone else: something outside his control. With cowriter Will Heinrich, Semans has fashioned a funny, outlandish, and ultimately horrifying portrait of a man who would rather lose everything than confront his inner demons—who'll do anything else before he'll take responsibility for his shortcomings.

Opens May 24


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