When You Finish Saving the World

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

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Bordering on satire, “When You Finish Saving the World” could have been a movie based on a Saturday Night Live skit. But it’s not. It’s a serious film debut by actor Jesse Eisenberg, based on his 2019 audiobook.

You remember Jesse Eisenberg, that awkward fuzzy-headed nerd who played Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network” and the kid who killed Bill Murray in “Zombieland.”

“When You Finish Saving the World” explores a fragile relationship between an overzealous do-gooder mom and her awkward social media-obsessed son.

Evelyn (Julienne Moore) volunteers at a shelter for victims of domestic abuse. Determined to live up to her own high standards, she is a poster girl for “good intentions gone awry.”

Her son Ziggy (Finn Wolfhard) has no friends, spending his time performing songs to a worldwide audience on a live podcast. However, his focus shifts when he becomes infatuated with a fellow student named Lila (Alisha Boe). Trying to fit into her politically-minded world, he follows her around like a puppy dog, trying hard to overcome his weirdness.

Meanwhile, Evelyn focus her attention on Kyle (Billy Bryk), a kid who recently moved into the shelter with his mom. Kyle is polite and responsible, everything Ziggy is not.

With her narcissistic nature, Evelyn projects her own values onto Kyle, insisting he ought to go to Oberlin University when he is perfectly happy working in a automotive body shop.

It’s this type of snooty middle-class blind spot that defines Evelyn.

“When You Finish Saving the World” is currently playing in theaters.

The New Yorker describes it as “Twitching with the same unease that characterizes his performances, Eisenberg’s directorial debut is taunt with unhappiness but allows itself to be funny.”

My take? Maybe as a short SNL sketch, some humor could be mined out of this cringeworthy setup. But at 1-hour 28-minutes, the two unbearable protagonists make this difficult to watch. The film is more akin to TV’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” than SNL.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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