Rarely do films that bill themselves as a blend of comedy and a second genre succeed at being an actual blend; typically, they are one or the other, with a few notes of another genre. Horror comedies are especially guilty of this, as they’re usually just comedies with touches of horror, or horror movies with a few jokes (there are, of course, exceptions). The unicorn of the thriller/comedy is also usually just a parody of thrillers. I think True Lies is the only example of a thriller/comedy that is equally funny and thrilling. And now, there’s a new kid on the block to join that club: Abigail Horton and Jason Dickie’s aptly titled Blow Up My Life, a film that accomplishes all it sets out to do and does so without going over-the-top.
Blow Up My Life is the story of Jason Trumble, a hotshot up and coming software designer who creates an app for a pharmaceutical company designed to help curb addiction. After an embarrassing video of Jason surfaces on the internet, he is unceremoniously let go. Down and out, he turns to software repair to make ends meet and in the process uncovers a deadly conspiracy involving his former employer. Soon, Jason and his cousin Charlie are on the run, rushing to bring the crimes of the pharmaceutical giant to light before they themselves are snuffed out.
The joy of this film is not just how funny it is, but how the comedy of it is executed. Much of that comedy isn’t drawn from straight up jokes or bits, but more from how earnest and straight-faced the film is. Jason Selvig plays Trumble with a sweet naivete, wondering out loud if a pharmaceutical company would really do such things in the name of the bottom line. He is woefully unaware of how much danger he’s actually in and oftentimes, it’s only Charlie who points such things out. Selvig’s unironic deadpan works brilliantly and while it’s not laugh out loud Adam McKay-style hilarity, the humor is undeniable.
While such style of comedy can sometimes be grating, there is no winking at the audience here. Jason’s lack of awareness isn’t caricature, but very sincere and realistic. He comes off less as a character in a comedy film and more as a guy in real life who says the right things in the moment instead of thinking later, “fuck, I should’ve said this to that guy.” This sounds dramatic, but there’s a humanity to the character that makes him extremely sympathetic. Charlie is much the same. Kara Young’s execution of the character is again nothing over-the-top or ridiculous, but more as an avatar for the audience to call out Jason’s naivity. She has a real desire to see justice happen, putting her life on the line to do so and to protect Jason. Every time Jason thinks they should give up, Charlie kicks his ass back into action with a monologue about holding the pharmaceutical company accountable, and she does so with such “damn the man” passion that you can’t help but get excited yourself. The chemistry between the two of them is positively delightful.
That’s not to say this is an entirely lighthearted film. Surprisingly, the very real and tragic phenomenon of opioid addiction is handled brilliantly, in that it’s assumed the audience knows what will happen if Jason and Charlie fail. Sure, there’s a conversation about overdoses because of Jason’s former employer’s negligence, and a character is revealed to have died because of an overdose, but much of the subject is left tastefully unspoken. In that same vein, what Charlie and Jason are up against is shown very clearly. There are attempted (and successful) assassinations, shadowy henchmen following our heroes, corrupt and violent mid-level managers using violence as a warning of further violence if noses aren’t kept out of company business, and textbook examples of how little pharmaceutical companies (and the obscenely wealthy in general) actually care for everyday Americans. And, most unsettling of all, the consequences of unprotected whistleblowing are depicted in a rather heartbreaking manner.
Blow Up My Life is a paradoxically fun bummer of a movie. The humor works and you fall in love with these characters, but it’s intensely nerve-wracking in how said characters are always on the run and justifiably so. It’s also a quietly withering commentary on capitalism and office culture, where the dog-eat-dog mentality is not just accepted as the status quo, but celebrated as a mark of success if one participates in it. It’s a film that shows us that the world may be cruel, but we should always strive to do the right thing and reveal the wrongs of the powers that be.