Breaking News in Yuba County
Allison Janney, Mila Kunis, Awkwafina, Regina Hall, Ellen Barkin, Clifton Collins Jr, Wanda Sykes, Matthew Modine, Juliette Lewis
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…a broken film, simultaneously too silly to make any lucid statements and yet too self-serious to be any fun.
Tate Taylor has had a rough time of it as a Hollywood creative. His last two features wound up entirely overshadowed by ulterior factors (Ma and its release burial, Ava and its production history before Taylor was brought in), and his earlier works range from good but basically ignored (Get On Up) to aging like a fine milk down the back of the sofa (The Help). The actor turned director knows how to bring a capital-A cast together for whatever he has planned, but the more that time passes, the more wasteful that practice appears. And in Taylor’s entire filmography to date, no singular film fits the description of ‘wasteful’ better than his latest.
The cast in attendance maintains his eye-catching pedigree, but that turns sour once it sets in, with just how miscast everyone here is. Allison Janney plays a housewife having a mental breakdown, which isn’t tragically hilarious nor hilariously tragic, just awkward to witness; while Regina Hall (and the roadkill strapped to her head) as a determined police officer gives law enforcement the Help treatment. To say nothing of Wanda Sykes still being allowed in films for some reason, Awkwafina as a wannabe-intimidating thug, Juliette Lewis as an amalgamation of everything Ricki Lake has ever done in her career – it’s a mess, meaning that the one saving grace of Taylor’s usual fare, the performances, isn’t to be found here. And it only gets worse from there.
The story here, written by Amanda Idoko in her first feature screenplay, is basically the Karen to end all Karens, with Janney’s Sue Buttons fuelling herself with self-help affirmations as she stirs up a media circus over her ‘missing’ husband. The film tries for a kitschy but pointed tone like a John Waters movie (Polyester and Hairspray in particular spring to mind), but because the satire is so tame and the attempts at camp extremity even more so, it fails to say much of anything worthwhile. Watching Regina Hall talk about how “these white bitches are crazy”, on a loop for an hour and a half, has the exact same effect as watching the film proper, and about as funny to boot.
There’s also a very heavy aroma of the Coen brothers throughout this thing, with the plot held together by characters tripping over each other’s mistakes while the reality of the situation is far simpler (and dumber) than any of them realise. But thanks to Taylor’s direction, this all comes across more like an idiot plot that thinks pointing out its own idiocy is enough to excuse that they couldn’t come up with anything sharper to put on the screen.
Breaking News In Yuba County is a broken film, simultaneously too silly to make any lucid statements and yet too self-serious to be any fun. There might be a modicum of entertainment value here for the sheer trainwreck of it all, but even then, Tate Taylor still has a lot to answer for with this one.