Breaking News in Yuba County is one of the newest dark comedies to be released this year. It follows our leading lady Sue Buttons (Allison Janney), a middle-aged woman struggling to find her place and see her own value in the world. We meet Sue on her birthday, and learn that both her sister Nancy (Mila Kunis), co-workers, and neglectful husband (Matthew Modine) have all forgotten the day despite her best efforts to subtly remind them. While she tries to console herself through her daily affirmations of self-worth, she comes across the heartbreaking reality that her husband is cheating on her. When she confronts him, he has a heart attack and dies. Instead of going to the police like most people would, she decides to take her life back by spinning a web of lies surrounding the “disappearance” of her husband to garner her 15 minutes of fame. Little did she know, her husband was involved with a group of shady money launderers, making the story of his disappearance much more complicated than she originally thought.
Before I started this movie, I tried really hard not to look too much into what it was about. I knew that it was directed by Tate Taylor (The Help, Ma, The Girl on the Train) which made me a bit excited as I thoroughly enjoyed Ma. I also knew that the script (written by Amanda Idoko) had been sitting on The Black List for a while. For those of you who don’t know, The Black List is a list of screenplays curated by producer Franklin Leonard that haven’t been picked up yet but hold a lot of potential. These things combined gave me hope that I’d probably enjoy it, especially paired with the ensemble cast being filled with actors and actresses whom I’ve liked for a number of years. I will say, I went in with expectations of the movie being a fun story but wasn’t expecting it to be life-altering piece of work. I think this, in part, is why many of the reviews I’ve seen thus far have been far from praise. I, on the other hand, actually genuinely enjoyed this movie.
While it almost goes without saying, Allison Janney by far takes the lead in this cast. While the whole story centers around her, she is also not the only actor with their own storyline. That being said, her performance definitely takes the cake compared to all of the other characters we follow. As soon as the opening comes up, I took one look at her and knew that she was going to snap at some point and that when it happened, it was going to be a big meltdown. While this is something I think can be poorly done as mental health really isn’t a joke, the story does a good job of making the audience feel empathetic for her and also making her painfully unlikable so that it almost feels okay to watch her spiral. You recognize that every choice she makes is hers alone and isn’t excused by mental health, as Hollywood tends to do oftentimes, but her own decisions. Since there’s a distinction between her having no control and having all the control in the world, you know that everything that happens to her is based off of her own poor decision making. Janney does an amazing job and slowly cracking below the surface, leading to a full on breakdown of level-headed thinking.
Aside from Janney, the cast is pretty star-studded and they all get their own fair share of storyline and screen time. We get to see Wanda Sykes as Rita, a friend and crime-hungry boss of Sue’s brother-in-law Steve (Chris Lowell). Together, they have their own crazy side-story of hunting for the missing brother and in tandem getting involved with the money launders led by Kavi (Awkwafina). We also get a look at the detective’s side through the lens of Officer Ramirez (Regina Hall) and the media scandal through the talk show host covering the case (Juliette Lewis). What I really liked about this script was that each character had something about them outside of their relationship to Sue. They each got their own mini-plot and weren’t just throwing cameos into the film for exposure – everybody was there for a reason. While their weren’t any stand-out performances per se aside from Janney, everybody held their own and brought something to their characters.
My biggest takeaway for you all is that I personally think the movie can be very enjoyable, but it really depends on what your expectations are. I decided to read a few other reviews to see if others had the same thought process as me, but I’ve come to realize that the majority of the popular reviews are negative. It was anticipated that this movie was going to be a commentary on the toxicity of social media and tabloid culture, and how it can negatively impact our lives. I’m of the belief that not every movie has to have a direct moral or lesson attached to it – sometimes, you can make something just for the enjoyment of it. This movie has moments that will make you think about how unfortunate it is to be on the outside of the “in-crowd”, but ultimately just gives you an escape from all of the serious and thought provoking films that are making their releases right now. Sometimes it’s fine to just sit back and enjoy a movie without having to analyze every connotation it has on real life. If you want a comedy to watch that is also interspersed with dark moments, this is a good one to enjoy. It’s not too long, not too demanding, and has quite a few good laughs throughout the madness. It may not be the “Hollywood Expose” some were hoping for, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that’s it’s still an enjoyable time from start to finish.
Breaking News in Yuba County is available now to buy on all major platforms.