Blu-ray Review: Breaking News in Yuba County

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Director Tate Taylor (The Help) brings together the considerable talents of Allison Janney, Mila Kunis, Regina Hall, Juliette Lewis, Awkwafina, Wanda Sykes, and Matthew Modine for the dark comedy Breaking News in Yuba County. Like so many feature films since the COVID pandemic, it pretty much bypassed theaters (it played in enough to scrape up $67,033), but has now arrived on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital. The ensemble cast is reason enough to give it a look. But if you're one of those folks who bases whether or not to watch a film solely on Rotten Tomatoes, you might want to just avoid checking that score.

Bad reviews aside, Breaking News starts off well enough. Sue Buttons (Janney) listens to self-help tapes all day, trying to bolster her confidence. Her husband Karl (Modine) is cheating on her with Leah (Bridget Everett, making a strong impression with limited screen time). Sue is the kind of person who orders her own personalized cake (paying for it even when they get her name wrong), since no one at work acknowledges her birthday. Janney is typically good, drawing pathos from Sue's mousy personality. Not really a spoiler (it happens very early, setting the plot in motion), but keep in mind this will be a reveal here—Karl dies while doing the deed with Leah, all witnessed by Sue herself.

It's a surprising turn of events, but it's also where director Taylor begins losing his grip. Amanda Idoko's script tries hard to be zany, hip, funny, and moving all at the same time. Take a little Tarantino, add a dash of Coen brothers... this kind of forced "darkness" has been done to death. If there's a novelty, it's that the whole thing winds up feeling like a more violent version of Garry Marshall's "minor holiday" comedies like Mother's Day and Valentine's Day. Sue decides to cover up her husband's death, concocting a missing person story that lands her on TV host Gloria Michaels' (Lewis) show. She even draws a connection between Karl's "disappearance" and a highly-publicized, unsolved child abduction case. As she becomes something of a celebrity, Detective Harris (Hall) becomes increasingly suspicious.

There's also an organized crime element (Awkwafina does what she can with an ill-conceived character) and an array of other "colorful" characters (Kunis is a Sue's sister, but also a TV reporter who's hurt because Gloria Michaels was given the exclusive). As the body count rises, Breaking News becomes less funny and less engaging. And Sue, with her false narrative growing more and more out of control, becomes way less sympathetic. Again, the presence of such a strong cast makes Breaking News in Yuba County" worth a look. But even at a compact 96 minutes, it wears out its welcome quickly.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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