Breaking News in Yuba County Review
Committed and chaotic.
The best way to describe Breaking News in Yerba County is committed and chaotic. Think of a less organised, tonally theatrical version of Knives Out without Daniel Craig’s bad accent and instead an iconic moment in which Awkwafina head butts Wanda Sykes.
The film opens where we meet Allison Janney’s character, a meek and mild, affirmation-laden woman called Sue Button. Cute as a button, really. She’s a middle aged, middle american woman, invisible to the world. We watch this fact illustrated in her workplace, her social life and her marriage. The film follows her quest to be seen - at all costs. The cost being the extraordinary body count accumulated in trying to convince the world that her cheating husband has, in fact, been kidnapped.
The pace of the film is break neck, not a moment wasted. The audience find themselves weaving through the complex universe of conceit, often at the cost of character development. We realise the surface level motivations, but not necessarily the complexity of those involved or at the very least, why they’d be willing to risk their lives all for such low stakes.
Stand out performances save any plot holes - from Wanda Skyes delivery of every line impassioned with middle fingers and guns procured in yuppie supermarkets, to Bridget Everett’s commitment (even nonsensically so) to playing what is ultimately a plot device, though she does so blazingly. Juliette Lewis as a day talk host is exactly the chaotic evil as you lust after too. With such a spectacular cast, it’s easy to gloss over any unnatural leaps taken in the storytelling.
Thematically, what was clear throughout the film is the boredom women of every walk of life have with the societal roles they play - mother, police officer, business owner, lesbian lover. They are all depicted as stuck, and often, not trusted or believed. Yet, it’s only Janney’s Sue who makes a play to change all that. Whether or not this was intentional, is not obvious. But it’s what stuck with me as I left the screening.
The story is enticing enough. It doesn’t explore any new territory in the genre of murder farces, instead borrowing heavily from water tight tropes. However, it does do so with admirable flair. By not reinventing the wheel, the filmmakers, led by Director Tate Taylor (The Help, The Girl on the Train) with script by newcomer Amanda Idoko, have created a perfectly interesting and, at times, funny piece of cinema.
Breaking News in Yerba County, to me at least, felt like a throwback to early 2000s film making - the heightened tensions of absurdity excusing implausible plot twists. Think Not Another Teen Movie or Get Over It. It’s not to say there isn’t a place in contemporary cinema for this type of entertainment, it’s just been so long since we’ve seen it that it’s like flipping through a dusty copy of August 2002 Mad Magazine. Go in with an expectation to be entertained, but not challenged.
Takeaways from Breaking News in Yerba County:
1) I don’t want to live in a universe in which Allison Janney isn’t the goddess walking among beasts we don’t deserve.
2) Americans have way too many guns.
An easy, unchallenging watch with enough one-liners by comedy heavyweights that you’ll at very least not notice the farce that’s farced itself.