Review: ‘I’ve Got Issues,’ starring Macon Blair, Claire Titelman, John Merriman, Byron Brown, Randy Aguebor, Courtney Davis, Sam Eidson, Paul Gordon and Maria Thayer

October 4, 2020

by Carla Hay

Courtney Davis in “I’ve Got Issues” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

“I’ve Got Issues”

Directed by Steve Collins

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in unnamed U.S. locations, the darkly droll comedy “I’ve Got Issues” features a predominantly white cast (with two African American men) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: In various chapters of the film, different characters have absurd, bizarre and sometimes unexpected experiences that often make them uncomfortable. 

Culture Audience: “I’ve Got Issues” will appeal primarily to people who like odd, slow-paced movies.

Macon Blair in “I’ve Got Issues” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

The dreadfully sluggish comedy “I’ve Got Issues” starts out as if it could be a promising dry-humored film, as off-screen narrator Jim Gaffigan says in a deadpan tone: “Humans. They struggle. Every day, they struggle. Why? What is the point?” That last question could be applied to this overly smug movie that tries too hard to be weird for the sake of being weird, but ultimately it just ends up being mindlessly dull without saying much.

“I’ve Got Issues” is told in several chapters, which are really small films with simple set designs, with each chapter lasting from five to 15 minutes long. Each chapter has a different storyline and different characters. Just don’t expect a lot of these chapters to have any meaning as they plod along, with the actors having the same listless and fog-brained demeanor in every single scene.

There are nine actors who play the main characters in the various chapters: Macon Blair, Claire Titelman, John Merriman, Byron Brown, Randy Aguebor, Courtney Davis, Sam Eidson, Paul Gordon and Maria Thayer. In all of these different settings and scenarios, which are supposed to represent America, apparently “I’ve Got Issues” writer/director Steve Collins wants to erase women of color, since women of color do not exist in the world he’s created for this movie.

The opening montage shows different people in various scenarios of annoyance. A man’s car breaks down and he’s left stranded. A man accidentally locks his keys in his car. A woman is walking somewhere in high heels, but one shoe has a broken heel. A man uses a copy machine that mangles the paper. A man tries to use a vending machine that doesn’t work. This montage is then referenced again in the closing scene.

In between, there are the chapters where viewers are subjected to a bunch of bizarre people who all talk very slowly, and we’re supposed to think it’s all very hip and funny. It’s just simply dull and not clever at all.

The chapter called “The Healer” basically consists of Gordon playing a New Age hippie type (“the healer”), who’s in a therapy session with two male friends, portrayed by Blair and Eidson. The character played by Blair gets uncomfortable when the healer brings another man into the session and tells the character played by Blair to let this strange man lie on his lap.

In the chapter called “Please Help Griselda,” Davis plays a mute woman named Griselda, who contorts her face and shows up at a stranger’s house and indicates that she needs help. The woman who answers the door is played by Titelman, and she lets Griselda into the home. The rest of the skit consists of asking Griselda repeatedly if she needs help.

A recurring theme in the film is people being interviewed, usually in a job setting. There are also multiple scenarios showing people attempting suicide by hanging. It’s unknown why writer/director Collins has a fixation on showing people with rope nooses that they want to put around their necks, but this imagery ultimately serves no purpose in this movie.

There is some attempt to be provocative when it comes to race and gender issues. In the chapter titled “Slippery Slope,” a man (played by Blair) applies for a job that he finds out is a paid internship to help write a newsletter for a “white male supremacy booster club.” He expresses some initial discomfort with taking the job, until he is told that the place will allow him to do recycling.

On his first day on the job, the only other co-worker in the large office room is an Indian man, who says, “I know it’s f-ed up,” in response to the intern’s surprise that a non-white person works there. The newly hired intern asks, “How are the benefits?” Later, the new intern is shown wearing a Ku Klu Klan outfit while he dumps some trash outside in a recycling bin, while an African American bystander (played by Aguebor) looks on with a shocked expression on his face.

In the chapter titled “Justice,” a woman (played by Thayer) is testifying in a courtroom trial somewhere in a Southern state, where the people talk in exaggerated Southern accents and blather on about sweet tea. She is testifying against the defendant, who is a man accused of stealing her purse and assaulting her. As she gives her testimony (she’s the only woman in a room of white men), the defendant’s lawyer begins to insult her, and she ends up being arrested and hauled off to jail before she can finish her testimony. It’s an obvious commentary on gender discrimination and victim shaming of women.

“I’ve Got Issues” has very low production values and very low concepts that aren’t executed as well as the filmmakers think they were. The actors were obviously instructed to speak their lines as if they’re in an alternate universe where everyone talks in the same irritating monotone. The acting isn’t the problem in this movie.

The biggest problem with “I’ve Got Issues” is the unrelenting boredom that the movie induces because it’s too busy patting itself on the back for being weird. Some people will automatically like this movie because they think it will make them look like they’re in on some kind of cool inside joke. But people who don’t want to be subjected to tedious junk should avoid “I’ve Got Issues” altogether.

Gravitas Ventures released “I’ve Got Issues” on digital and VOD on September 18, 2020.

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