The new sci-fi rom-com “Save Yourselves!” is rich in comic timing, but seemingly nowhere more than in its very title, coming in this of all weeks. Unless, of course, you enjoyed the presidential debate.
But there are several layers of meaning to the title, even without that exquisite yet unintentional one. The first concerns the fact that killer aliens descend to Earth, bent on destroying all in their path. So there’s that.
The other concerns the relationship at the core of the movie, that of a Brooklyn hipster couple trying to cope with various needs and differences and working on growing and nurturing their love, much like the yeast starter for their homemade sourdough.
There are many Brooklyn millennial references like that, and luckily most of them hit their mark with a delightful zing, thanks to a crackling script by directors-writers Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson, but especially because of the easy chemistry between the terrific leads, Sunita Mani and a hilarious John Reynolds. The plot does get rather confused and trippy in the latter third, but by then we’re so charmed by this couple and their creative efforts to save themselves that honestly, it hardly matters.
We begin in the year … well, “the year humankind lost Planet Earth.” So from the start, we sort of know where this is going.
But before the aliens arrive, in the form of cute little furry “pouffes” that resemble comfy footstools, we get to know Su and Jack. Fittingly when we meet them, she’s on her laptop and he’s on his phone. Technology clearly rules their lives. Typical domestic dialogue: “Alexa, play!” “Alexa, stop!”
Su is miffed, because Jack messed with her tabs on her laptop, and now she can’t find her stuff, only Jack’s articles on baking bread. She asks for an apology. He obliges. “What are you apologizing FOR?” she asks, as if to a child. “That thing you want me to apologize for,” he says. You can tell they go down this road all day long.
But the couple is working on bettering themselves, and one evening at a party, they meet a friend who owns a remote cabin upstate. They take him up on his offer of a week away from it all. They decide to cut off all technology, and won’t communicate with anyone. They settle in for a week of hiking and canoeing and making lists like “How to Be a Better ‘We.'”
And then, as if cutting off iPhones and iPads for a week weren’t scary enough, there’s that alien invasion thing.
Not that they catch on anytime soon. They’re pretty oblivious. They notice a furry “pouffe” nesting in the living room, but assume it’s inanimate, When alien forces descend from the night sky, they assume it’s a meteor shower. They don’t even notice that guy falling dead outside their window.
But when Jack is out for a minute, Su checks her phone. Mass chaos has engulfed the nation.
Soon the killer “pouffes,” who live on ethanol and suck gasoline from cars, are rampaging through their bucolic country village. Su and Jack need to use all their wits to escape. Their struggle is often quite amusing; the sight of Reynolds trying to fight intergalactic war with a tennis racket (old-style wood, not metal!) is a delight.
At one point, the couple is trying to use their collective knowledge about aliens to outsmart them, and Jack tells Su that they can’t judge from movies that they’ve seen, because those aliens are naturally imbued with “Earth-based attributes.” In other words they need to think out of the box — or the planet.
Likewise, one could say it’s unwise to judge this film via the standards of conventional sci-fi movies. Things get a little weird, and the ending may not be as neat as one expects.
But hey, these are tough times. A diversion like “Save Yourselves!” might just save your week.
“Save Yourselves!”, a Bleecker Street Films release, has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America, “for language.” Running time: 93 minutes. Three stars out of four.
MPAA definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.