Y2K’s Big Chill
Los Angeles Film Festival
A dark fable for the Obama Era, Goodbye World (2013) drops us into a dystopian near future. It’s also a reminder of 1999 and the predicted Y2K global meltdown. As the story begins, Becky (Caroline Dhavernas) is a hot but germ-phobic babe who shows up with her husband Nick (Ben McKenzie) at a Mendocino cabin. There’s some intrigue involving Nick and their host James (Adrian Grenier) who were the main partners in a start-up that’s evolved into a do-gooder foundation. There’s anticipation and dread as other old friends begin arriving.
When she’s not doing ridiculous white girl raps, Lily is a hacker. For fun, she breaks into the laptop of Lev (Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi). Earlier, he was contemplating suicide but fate brings him back to the old gang. He’s in what looks like a fugue state when discovered on the road by Laura (Gaby Hoffman), a Washington policy wonk. When all hell breaks loose because of Lily’s stupid prank, she’s able to decode the President’s address to a worried nation. It doesn’t look good, folks. Lev is African American but isn’t the first one to die, surprisingly. Whether or not his technical brilliance can slow or stop the oncoming crisis is an open question. His more immediate concern is maintaining the group’s college days mojo (Twister, anyone?).
Director Denis Henry Hennelly has an affinity for politically-charged themes. His first feature, Bold Native (2010) dealt with animal liberation. In Variety, Scott Foundas called Goodbye World “an unholy cross between thirtysomething gabfests like The Big Chill . . . and the suddenly flush lo-fi apocalypse sub-genre.”
With co-writer Sarah Adina Smith, Hennelly creates a world where even on the brink of annihilation, people still engage in petty squabbles. The Big Chill comparison is apt because Goodbye World is very much a generational story. These are the children of baby boomer parents, who grew up alongside the technology that now interconnects the planet. Meg Tilly’s character in The Big Chill, younger than the rest, wondered aloud what happy people were like because she’d “never met any.” Her Goodbye World counterpart is college age Ariel (Remy Nozik) who arrives with her professor, Beni (Mark Webber), on the back of his motorcycle. Beni, who was jailed for a politically motivated crime, acts out his beliefs while the rest of them just talk. Ariel sees the hypocrisy of her Gen X elders and decides to take a stand.