“I’ve Got Issues” is a comedy for a very specific audience with a very distinct sense of humor. If you enjoy the tone of films by directors like Quentin Dupieux, Yorgos Lanthimos, and Ingmar Bergman, this sardonic, eccentric exercise in the absurd will be the perfect match for you. If you have no idea who any of these filmmakers are, you probably should stop reading this review now.
This dreamy, avant-garde comedy consists of dozens of short film vignettes that explore all the suckiness of everyday life through relatable tales like struggling to please your new boss, tactfully engaging with house guests who overstay their welcome, dealing with unrequited love, landing the worst (really, the worst) job ever, and worrying about little things like the eventual destruction of the planet. It’s all tied together in a semi-cohesive narrative as different characters weave in and out of each other’s stories. (Although we still don’t get a satisfactory ending to the what-in-the-holy-hell-is-that? Mr. Pizza).
The film is perfectly cast and makes the most of its actors (many of whom play dual roles in the story), including John Merriman, Macon Blair, Maria Thayer, and Jim Gaffigan, who serves as the narrator of the story. Cinematographer Nathan Smith creates a drab and dreary world of light browns, faded blues, and khakis. There’s an abundance of French-style ennui and offbeat physical humor that’s not exactly sophisticated, but is still brainy. This is not a mainstream comedy but it made me laugh a lot, especially during the first third.
Writer and director Steve Collins has said that he makes films that “focus on the inner struggles of sensitive people, and “I’ve Got Issues” feels like someone decided to hold up a mirror to the current tumultuous times in our country. Being a human and simply living life often stinks, and it’s easy to get caught up in a spiral of despair when trying so desperately to make sense of the futility of it all. Collins has a quirky vision that ranges from brilliant satire to irritating film school symbolism, but the central theme to the story is “life’s a bitch and then you die.”
The plethora of existential dread is offset by random weirdness and sardonic humor that reveals a deeper understanding of the world’s worries, so it’s not entirely depressing. The film even manages to conclude with a reassuring message of kindness and encouragement, if only we humans could be bothered to take the time to help each other through the storm.