October 5, 2023
by Carla Hay
Directed by Ryan Dickie and Abigail Horton
Culture Representation: Taking place in Middletown, Connecticut, the comedy/drama film “Blow Up My Life” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with one African American and two Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: A software engineer, who has been fired from his job at a pharmaceutical company, becomes a whistleblower who has to change his identity when he finds out that his former employer is selling an app that gets people hooked on a vaping pen that is supposed to wean people off of opioid addiction but instead gets people hooked on the vaping pen.
Culture Audience: “Blow Up My Life” will appeal primarily to viewers who are interested in watching fast-paced thrillers that have deadpan comedy.
“Blow Up My Life” is an appealing and sometimes awkward mix of snarky comedy and suspenseful thriller. Jason Selvig and Kara Young are a dynamic on-screen duo in this story about a whistleblower on the run. The abrupt ending might get mixed reactions. Some of the slapstick gags look a little too contrived, but the movie excels when it’s about the people who are caught up in this crime drama.
Written and directed by Ryan Dickie and Abigail Horton, “Blow Up My Life” (formerly titled “Dead End”) was filmed on location in Middletown, Connecticut. “Blow Up My Life” manages to make a sweeping and absorbing story out of a relatively small cast and not very many locations. The scandal in the story is about deadly corruption at a corporate pharmaceutical firm that is about to become a public company.
In the beginning of “Blow Up My Life,” software engineer Jason Trumble (played by Selvig) works at a pharmaceutical company called Furenza, whose biggest product is a vaping pen called Doxie, which has low dosages of opioids that are meant to wean people off of high-dosage opiods. It’s similar to how a nicotine patch or nicotine gum is supposed to help people quit smoking tobacco. Jason has created the Doxie app that is supposed to regulate a safe dosage in the vaping pen.
Furenza expects that its IPO (initial public offering) will be a success and will add hundreds of millions of dollars in value and cash flow to the company. Not long before this crucial IPO rollout, Jason is fired after it’s discovered that he made a past video of himself doing drugs and the video was posted online. After his exit from Furenza, Jason starts his own computer repair company called JT Computer Repair, where he is the only employee.
One day, Jason happens to get a call from his former Furenza boss Gary Johanssen (played by Davram Stiefler), who wants Jason to make a house call to do a repair job for Gary’s laptop computer. Jason sees it as an opportunity to find anything scandalous on Gary’s computer. (In real life, Selvig and Stiefler are the comedy duo the Young Liars.)
What Jason finds out shakes him to the core: Several people at Furenza know that the Doxie app that Jason created is deliberately malfunctioning and causing people to get hooked on using the Furenza vaping pen. Some people have died from drug overdoses as a result, but Furenza has so far not been linked to these overdoses, because the people who use Doxie are usually known to already be addicted to drugs. Furenza is relying on people to get hooked on Doxie as the main sales strategy for Doxie.
Jason decides to download a copy of the evidence from Gary’s computer. His cousin Charlotte “Charlie” August (played by Young), who’s an expert computer hacker, encourages Jason to become a whistleblower and take the information to the media. Jason is very naïve when he tells Charlie that he doesn’t think that Gary is involved in this corruption because Jason thinks Gary seems like too nice of a person. Charlie, who has more street smarts than Jason does, tells him that Gary would have to be involved or aware of the corruption since the evidence was on Gary’s computer.
Jason knows exactly which journalist should get the story: His former love interest Priya Prasad (played by Reema Sampat), who has moved on to a new boyfriend. The movie doesn’t really make it clear if Priya and Jason were actually in a serious romantic relationship. What’s clear though is that Jason hasn’t really gotten over Priya. He hopes that giving her this news exposé will impress Priya and might get her show a romantic interest in him.
Before Jason meets up with Priya, he has a confrontation with Gary in a parking garage. During this confrontation, Gary essentially admits that he knows about the malfunctioning Doxie app that gets people hooked. Gary sneers at Jason: “It doesn’t matter what you think because you don’t work at Furenza anymore.”
Gary then admits that he was going to fire Jason anyway because the thinks that Jason was after Gary’s job, which is an accusation that Jason vehemently denies. Jason and Gary get into an argument. And then, something happens in that parking garage that convinces Jason that he really needs to expose Furenza’s corruption with the evidence that he has.
Because of what happened in the parking garage, Jason goes into hiding. Charlie drops off several things for Jason at a secret location so that he can have a new identity. Jason gets a fake driver’s license with an alias. He is also now posing as a delivery van driver for a phony business called Rhoda’s Gormet Catering. (In one of the movie’s deadpan jokes, Jason immediately notices that “gourmet” is misspelled.)
Jason meets with Priya, who is grateful and excited about getting this big news scoop. However, she tells Jason that he needs to get evidence that Fumera’s CEO knew and encouraged the deadly nature of the Doxie app. Fumera CEO Blake Davis (played by Ben Horner) is a somewhat stereotypical greedy and ruthless corporate executive. Jason teams up with Charlie to spy on Blake by planting a spy cam in a bouquet of flowers and delivering it to Blake by convincing him that the bouquet is from a potential financial investor.
The rest of “Blow Up My Life” shows how Jason gets into increasingly dangerous situations. Through it all, he keeps an audio journal and gets advice/help from Charlie, who is fully on board with Jason being a whistleblower. Jason’s audio journal entries and his voiceover narration for the movie are meant to be semi-running jokes in the movie.
The partnership between Jason and Charlie has echoes of the partnership of “Get Smart” characters Maxwell Smart (also known as Agent 86) and Agent 99 in the “Get Smart” comedy franchise: The man is the lead character in this duo, but the woman in this duo is the smarter one and gets her male partner out of tricky situations that he’s not capable of doing on his own. Many of the best scenes in “Blow Up My Life” are with Jason and Charlie, who have a snappy rapport that’s entertaining to watch.
“Blow Up My Life” has a few tonal issues where the comedy and the drama don’t blend together very well in some of the scenes, but this combination works for most of the movie. Selwig and Young carry the movie with their acting and great comedic timing. The movie’s other cast members in the movie give solid but not spectacular performances. Writers/directors Dickie and Horton make an above-average feature-film debut with “Blow Up My Life.” Even if the subjects of Big Pharma and IPOs have no interest to you, “Blow Up My Life” should keep most viewers interested in what’s going to happen throughout the movie.
WPDA Studios released “Blow Up My Life” in select U.S. cinemas on September 18, 2023. The movie will be released of digital and VOD on November 21, 2023.