Imagine a world where store-bought cards are a ridiculously big deal. That's how I imagine Bob Odenkirk pitched his latest project, a deadpan comedy film following the life of Ray, an over-the-hill self-proclaimed poet who writes romantic greeting cards.
The Netflix original fittingly debuted Feb. 14. But it isn't necessarily a good watch if you're looking for a cozy holiday special. The roughly hourlong movie takes you on a journey, constantly hiding what the movie is truly about. And then, before you get a satisfying answer, it just ends.
The movie's lack of a consistent theme is unsettling — it felt like anything could happen at any point. Granted, that may not say much considering the scope of the world the movie establishes, but it genuinely leaves you with little to no sense of direction within the narrative.
The opening of the film sets the tone of a satirical film noir with no real allusion to what is being satirized. The classic trope of an old-timer who has fallen from the top of his field by failing to adapt is present, even as Ray gives a clunky, awkward monologue categorizing his rise to the top of his field of card writing.
At one point, Ray speaks with his boss about how the industry is now too focused on gimmicks — in this case glitter and music players. Not like the good old days (stop me when you've heard this before).
What's new is the greeting card writers are rock stars in this world where greeting cards are hugely important. Ray's greeting card skills get him involved in a conspiracy involving his ex-wife, a set of competitive brothers, a couple of down-to-Earth henchmen and his very own love interest.
This story of murder, deceit and jealousy seems intentionally sarcastic in a way that is perfect for the cynical viewer. The movie thrives on its self-awareness, which is perhaps the greatest quality this Netflix original has.
The movie's underlying absurdity makes the whole thing seem like a practical joke, and the acting and writing do little to shake the viewer from this opinion.
Odenkirk has crafted a grotesque allusion to nothing in particular, pulling together classic tropes from several genres. These known quantities in tandem with the ludicrous spin of Odenkirk's comedy had a strangely appealing effect. This combination of typical themes with quirky, meta humor is best compared to potato chips covered in chocolate — they shouldn't work well together, but in this case, they do.