Jake Johnson’s “Self Reliance” is the type of original and breezy comedy more studios should be making.
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“Self Reliance” Plot Summary
“Self Reliance” is Jake Johnson’s film directorial debut, and after months of delays, it finally arrives on Hulu. The dark comedy is a quick, innovative blast that’s reminiscent of the single-star Jim Carrey or Ben Stiller vehicles that were big in the 90s and early 2000s. “Self Reliance” flirts with the morbidity of its premise, but writer/director Jake Johnson is just too darn charming to ever leave you in the dark.
In “Self Reliance,” Tommy (Jake Johnson) is clearly struggling just to live his daily life. He still keeps a picture of his ex on his dresser, he sleepwalks through work, and he spends his nights alone with a drink. But Tommy’s life is about to change when television’s own Andy Samberg (played by Andy Samberg) picks up Tommy in a limo to take him to the opportunity of a lifetime. Tommy has the chance to win $1 million if he avoids being assassinated for a full month. Tommy eagerly says yes to the deal because he believes he has figured out a loophole for the whole competition. The challenge states that assassins cannot kill you if you’re around someone, so what if Tommy spends all 24 hours for the next 30 days surrounded by people?
Tommy accepts his new circumstances with ease. It’s everyone else in his life who thinks he’s losing his mind. As his life becomes more paranoid and he hires a stranger (Biff Wiff) to follow him around, Tommy’s sisters and mom are worried about him and refuse to play along. But when Tommy meets Maddy (Anna Kendrick), a woman who says that she signed up for the same competition, Tommy feels as if he has found a soulmate. With still many days left in the competition, is Tommy’s challenge real, or is this all happening in his head?
“Self Reliance” has a fun premise that coasts by due to snappy performances. Johnson’s comedy keeps you guessing about whether this is all happening in Tommy’s head. The concept and twists may lose their spice by the third act, but “Self Reliance” is the type of original comedy that you wish more studios would invest their time into making.
“Self Reliance” is Rated R due to profanity throughout and some violence.
Other Noteworthy Information
- Jake Johnson writes, stars, and directs “Self Reliance.” It is his directorial debut.
“Self Reliance” General Information
|Based On Work By
|January 12, 2024
|How To Watch
|1 Hour, 25 Minutes
|Noted Characters and Cast
Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.
Tommy (Jake Johnson)
Tommy is a lonely schlub dissatisfied with his life. When he unexpectedly gets an opportunity to enter a deadly game for $1 million, he leaps at the chance. But Tommy’s friends and loved ones are more skeptical of the game, leaving Tommy increasingly alone when he needs people the most.
- The actor is also known for their role in “New Girl.”
Maddy (Anna Kendrick)
Maddy answers Tommy’s ad about also partaking in the deadly game. Maddy is someone bored with life and looking for a connection. She finds a partner in Tommy.
- The actor is also known for their role in “Pitch Perfect.”
James/Walter (Biff Wiff)
James is hired to follow Tommy around. He’s an easy-going presence and believes Tommy is actually playing a game.
- The actor is also known for their role in “I Think You Should Leave`.”
“Thomas Walcott. Single; no children; no dependents. Job is network management. Physically fit. Guess they’re not too strict about that one. I’m joking! …kind of serious, though.”
“Self Reliance” Review
Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)
Notable Performances or Moments
Jake Johnson as Tommy Brings a Light to the Darkest of Scenes
As writer and director of “Self Reliance,” Jake Johnson understands the protagonist like no other. He infuses Tommy with an affable and disarming manner in any situation. Johnson gives us someone to root for, and even if we’re not sure if what’s happening is real, Johnson’s performance as Tommy makes us hope that he’s right.
Loose and Natural Performances Keep the Energy Alive
Each supporting performance in “Self Reliance” creates a bouncy power dynamic. From Tommy’s mom (Nancy Lenehan) to the unhoused hire named James/Walter (Biff Wiff), every character is welcomed with open arms in each scene. In fact, at just 85 minutes, we could have spent more time with Tommy’s family or Maddy to really establish what Tommy was like before his breakup. The performances not only create credibility for the premise but also elaborate on the type of person Tommy is.
Original Premise is Fun to Watch Unfold
One of my favorite aspects of “Self Reliance” is the premise itself: a guy must surround himself with people in order to survive. It’s figurative and literal while creating many silly scenarios. It makes viewers review when they’re alone in their own lives (even if it’s just a moment to pee) and how any trivial moment could become a life-or-death situation.
On The Fence
Lack of Explanation Leaves Ending Muted
What was the purpose of the competition? While intern ninjas claimed Tommy was their favorite and that the show was a comedy, was anything really real? Who’s watching? “Self Reliance” may not have had to answer those questions, but the third act stops giving exposition in a way that could have still been enjoyable. Tommy makes it to the finish line, but the ending feels like it goes out with a whimper instead of a bang, which is disappointing for such an intriguing concept.
Good If You Like
- Original comedies, dark comedies, and any of Jake Johnson’s previous acting work.
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