Directed by David Cross
Opens February 13
“[O]blivious or unaware characters” are David Cross’s “trademark,” according to his IMDB bio—fair enough, but several octaves separate the touchingly sunny self-delusions of blue, body-ashamed Tobias Fünke and those of the characters in Hits, Cross’s debut as a feature-film writer-director. Hits is casually comprehensive in its revulsion at a selfish, malignantly dumbed-down, celebrity-obsessed culture. It’s also very nearly convincing, and quite funny.
In a low-budget everything-is-connected way, Hits bounces between blue Brooklyn and red upstate, over the course of a summer week or so. Townie teen Katelyn (Meredith Hagner) pores over tabloid weeklies’ coverage of reality stars with engrossed outrage, holds Ellen interviews in her head, and cajoles money for her The Voice audition tape out of her Alex Jones-listening dad, Dave (Matt Walsh), whose repeated disruptions of town meetings (the three-minute time limit is a violation of his liberty, the pothole on his street still hasn’t been filled) gain him a YouTube following, including Donovan (James Adomian) of the Greenpoint-based “activist collective” Think Tank, who ZipCars north to take “A Dave That Will Live In Infamy” viral. These elements build a climactic melee over the blind need for validation—via love, civic respect, and especially, per the title, views and Likes.
On this point and others, Hits is about as bracingly unsubtle as Lily Allen’s “The Fear,” its end-credits song. Cross and his sketch-trained cast have that alternative-comedy itch for the next absurdist punchline, and the unmodulated characterizations, when extended over 100 minutes and juxtaposed with Hits’s ultra-specific milieus, are hyper-realistic, both funny and damning. Best in show is Walsh, so good with Dave’s not-ready-for-prime-time quavering formality and unraveling syntax (“You have blood on your hands of a dead dog.”).
But Cross also leavens his horror with pity, at least for characters farther from himself: witness Dave and Katelyn’s halting daddy-daughter bonding, or the pathos of Donovan’s girlfriend, who sells “feminist theory onesies” on Etsy, and assuages her womb-ache by baking cookies for her weed guy (Michael Cera). No such heartstrings, though, are pulled for Donovan, the ineffectually angry, paternalistic but emotionally evasive hashtag activist. It gives some legitimacy to Cross’s misanthropy that he does not second-guess his contempt for a Brooklynite of moon-faced middle age, with distinctive facial hair and designer eyeglasses, who is sometimes seen in jean shorts.