Director: Todd Berger
Title: It’s A Disaster
Starring: Julia Stiles, America Ferrera, David Cross (TV’s ‘Arrested Development’), Rachel Boston (‘The Pill’), Blaise Miller (‘The Scencesters’), Erinn Hayes (TV’s ‘Children’s Hospital’), Jeff Grace (‘Super Zeroes’) and Kevin Brennan (‘The Lake House’)
Maintaining the perfect public image, particularly with long-term friends who believe you have the perfect life, is an important goal many people set to maintain. Often times it takes a life altering, catastrophe event that forces people to publicly face the inevitable and admit their mistakes and shortcomings. Struggling to cope with such an sudden and unexpected change is the emotional conflict in the new comedy ‘It’s A Disaster.’ The characters in writer-director Todd Berger’s film are shocked to learn of the sudden impending nuclear Apocalypse that’s initiated during one of their routine gatherings. Facing their inevitable deaths is the main thing that truly makes them question their past actions and choices, and finally admit that their seemingly perfect lives aren’t as flawless as they make them seem.
‘It’s A Disaster’ begins with the high-strung Tracy (Julia Stiles), a doctor with a history of bad relationships, arriving for the couples brunch that her and her six friends have been holding for the past several years. Tracy brings Glen Randolph (David Cross), a man she met online and has recently began dating, to introduce him to her friends. The seemingly friendly Glen is ignorant of the continuously growing problems between the couples, and is naively pushed into their constant fighting.
When Tracy and Glen arrive, the hosts of the brunch, Pete (Blaise Miller) and Emma (Erinn Hayes), appear to be the most functional couple of the relationships in Tracy’s clique. However, they surprisingly are set to announce their divorce to their friends during their meal. Shane (Jeff Grace) and Hedy (America Ferrera), meanwhile, have been engaged for five years and counting, and their relationship status is a sensitive subject within the group. The truly happiest partners, Buck (Kevin Brennan) and Lexi (Rachel Boston), credit their success to an open relationship. The couples’ unease with each other are heightened when one of Pete and Emma’s neighbors arrives and announces America has been targeted by a nuclear attack, and they are destined to die within hours. When the group’s remaining couple, Gordon (Rob McGillivray) and Jane (Laura Adkin), arrive at the brunch and the friends witness as their illnesses from the radiation rapidly intensify, the group must reexamine their own lives and make tough decisions about their short-lived futures.
While the action is entirely set in Pete and Emma’s house during the comedy’s emotional and humorously driven plot-line, first time production designer Peter K. Benson created elaborately diverse, but equally sentimental, rooms that reflect the distinctively different motivations in each relationship. Being trapped in one location forces the couples to seriously contend with their own mistakes, and how their actions contributed to the deterioration of their romances and friendships. From the modestly decorated dining room that’s filled with pictures of the friends and reflects their past happiness, to the technologically packed dining room that highlights Pete and Emma’s growing emotional separation from each other, to the couple’s cluttered basement that showcases their inability to truly let go of the past, the house is the perfect catalyst for the couples to reflect on their mistakes and commitment to each other. Benson inserted such meticulous and unique detail into each room the characters converse in, where all of the couples receive drastic and shocking news about their significant other, that the house doesn’t appear to be at all confining. Even though the characters reverently believe science teacher Hedy’s prediction that they’ll destined to die if they leave the house and breathe the air outside, Emma and Pete’s home isn’t at all constricting; it acts as its own character that liberates everyone else’s emotions.
‘It’s A Disaster,’ which marks Berger’s second feature film writing and directorial effort, smartly focuses on the emotional ramifications the impending apocalypse has on Tracy and her friends, as opposed to the action that’s simultaneously occurring in the streets across America. The friends choose to forgo exploring their interest in what’s happening in their neighborhood, and search for any chance of possibly saving their lives, to instead mend their broken relationships amongst themselves. At times, the group questions why they’re even bothering trying to fix the strains in their relationships, such as when Hedy convinces herself the group will experience painful deaths if they leave the house. But conversely, other couples passionately try to find comfort with each other, and find hope in what their futures would have been like together. Pete and Emma ponder how they became so emotionally estranged, and if there’s any way they can fix their broken marriage, while Tracy and Glen picture the potentially happy relationship they could have had together, if they look past their initial differences.
The filmmaker, who has some experience in cinematography, having previously worked in the area with a short film and a television show, expertly worked with skilled Director of Photographer Nancy Schreiber to intimately focus on the characters’ drastic revelations over the course of one day. Within the first shots of ‘It’s A Disaster,’ Schreiber created creatively sweeping wide shots of the characters, and placed many of them in the same shots together as they pretended as though their relationships were perfectly fine. But once the group receives the news of the radiation, the cinematographer effectively used close-up angles and focused on the characters’ emotional reactions when they uncover unexpected surprises about each other. She also expertly shots the characters behind natural barriers found in the house, such as racks in the basement and closed doors from the outside world, to emphasize the growing separation between the friends as they uncover unexpected truths about each other.
‘It’s A Disaster’ is an equally passionate and humorous insight into how couples and friends react during times of physical danger, and the lengths they’ll go to in order to save their lives and protect their emotions. Benson created elaborately distinctive rooms in Pete and Emma’s house that reflect the different motivations in each relationship, and as a result effectively doesn’t make the location to be at all confining. With the help of the emotionally-driven cinematography shot by Schreiber, the film effortlessly stresses the heartbreaking ramifications of the impending apocalypse between the friends, as opposed to the action that’s simultaneously occurring in the streets across America. Through the well-balanced character arcs and visual elements, the comedy both humorously and emotionally chronicles how people often don’t muster the courage to face their problems and fears until external forces push them into self reflection.
Written by: Karen Benardello