In the eighties and nineties independent film was in its heyday. Many great “human” comedies came out of this era. Before giant Hollywood romcoms, little films filled with relationship-related comedy were plentiful, with many of them being highly entertaining.
Writer/director Joshua Land’s new Maryland-set film “I Like Me” (co-written by Abby Sussman) has a mid-nineties indie feel to its screenplay, although it is definitely set in 2018.
VISIT Joshua Land’s site
After the death of her estranged father, wild-child daughter Maggie, who’s in her mid-forties, comes home for the funeral and worms her way into her sister Hannah’s house. After discovering a stash of self-help books, she is convinced they are bullshit and that she could do better. Maggie concocts a phony bio and writes her own book and voila! She becomes a self-help celebrity.
Sue Schaffel, better-known for her work as stage actor, plays Maggie with gusto and livens up the film every time she is on screen. Maggie enters the film disheveled and listening to a vulgar tune by Maryland’s own Mary Prankster, which announces her character with a bang! Schaffel shows real acting chops and has great comic timing. Her performance here recalls the vibrant work of Parker Posey back when she was the “Queen of the Indie.”
As Hannah Anna Fagan does well as the put-upon and stressed-out sibling but the screenplay rarely allows her much more to do. Fagan’s character is on a quick path to being miserable as she juggles dealing with her wild sister’s rising success just as her own job growth is being stunted by a company that doesn’t seem to care. To add to her messy life, her husband (Chris Kozlowski) is too aloof at times and takes in the wild vibes coming from Maggie.
The film is well-written for the most part and the director breaks no new ground yet keeps things interesting for much of the film’s running time.
There are stumbles as “I like me” morphs from comedy into something deeper. And, there is the ill-advisedly inclusion of a musical number that comes out of nowhere and completely falls flat.
One is also left in want of more parodying of the self-help craze and less of Maggie hanging with frat boys. There is also an under-explored relationship with her estranged son that isn’t given the depth it merited.
That said, “I like me” has a charm that one cannot escape. I enjoyed spending time with Maggie and Hannah and I look forward to seeing Sue Schaffel and Anna Fagan in future projects.
Anna Fagan won the Best Actress award at the Hoboken Film Festival and Sue Schaffel won Best Actress at the Reading Film Fest, the same festival where Joshua Land also won Best Director.
Uneven at times, “I Like Me” is a good little film with two solid lead performances, and, as I previously mentioned, its qualities just cannot be ignored.