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The Vanguard

Self Reliance Movie Review

Self Reliance Movie Poster

On January 12, Hulu released an original comedy-thriller film titled “Self Reliance”, written, directed by, and starring Jake Johnson. The film also stars Anna Kendrick, Natalie Morales, and Andy Samberg and the story presents a scenario where an ordinary man gets the opportunity to participate in a game show that could ultimately result in his death. 

Warning: Please keep in consideration that this film is rated R for language throughout.

The story starts with Jake Johnson’s character Tommy, a middle-aged, down-on-his-luck man whose life is a dull and repetitive routine, every day the same as the next one. Unexpectedly, Andy Samberg (playing himself) approaches Tommy in a limo, explaining that his employer has been watching Tommy for awhile. Samberg then gives him a choice to “continue on their adventure”, to which Tommy instantly agrees. 

After being dropped off at a remote warehouse, two mysterious men give Tommy a pitch to participate in the dark web’s most popular reality game show, which just so happens to have life-or-death circumstances. In this show, Tommy has to survive 30 days as a group of unknown, unseen ‘hunters’ attempt to kill him and if he survives, he will receive one million dollars. There is only one loophole: Hunters can’t put others’ lives at risk, meaning that if Tommy is always in close proximity with someone, he will be safe.

Throughout the rest of the film, Tommy is seen grasping at the need for companionship. He tries to find safety in his family and friends, only to be brushed off as crazy. This results in him having to rely on strangers, from hiring a homeless man to shadow him, to placing a Craigslist ad to hopefully find other competitors of the game. However, in the instance when he doesn’t have anyone around, we watch as he gets chased by ‘hunters’ disguised as characters like Michael Jackson, a sumo wrestler, and even Mario, just to name a few. 

At its center, “Self Reliance” feels like a metaphor for having finally stepped back to a life of normalcy after being held up in our houses for two years, reinforcing the need for human connection. This is attributed to the fact that Johnson wrote the screenplay during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also during the filmmaking process, Johnson was involved in every step of the way. From choosing his crew and cast, to directing, to writing, and even playing the lead role, Johnson was in charge of making most, if not all of the decisions. With “Self Reliance”, Johnson had an overall goal to make a film that makes people excited to watch and share with family and friends. 

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Johnson says, “What I crave in entertainment right now is lightness and fun with no messaging – just nice escapism. And I want to be a part of that.”

When looking further into “Self Reliance”, from the premise of the film to the cast, this movie had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, it felt as though something was missing. While there were definitely some good aspects to the film, a lot of it was overshadowed by the downsides. A lot of the problems stem from the humor being very lackluster, essentially defeating the purpose of the ‘comedy’. 

Overall, “Self Reliance” was a decent watch with few laughs. With a runtime of 85 minutes, “Self Reliance” is currently streaming on Hulu. 

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About the Contributor
Ava Bronstad
Ava Bronstad, Lead Staff
Senior Ava Bronstad is a returning third-year member of the Vanguard Staff. As a retired theatre kid she has a fond appreciation for the arts, is fascinated by zombie shows, and mentions that her greatest talent is drawing Garfield by memory. Bronstad currently works at a favored paint-your-own pottery studio and plans to attend college to minor in criminal justice and major in forensic science. She is motivated to spend her last year of news writing perfecting her proficient review pieces, having good conversations, and taking funky photos on her flip phone. Contact: [email protected]  

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