Breaking News in Yuba County

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Allison Janney in Breaking News in Yuba County.
Allison Janney in Breaking News in Yuba County.
Photo: Anna Kooris/American International Pictures

MOVIE:

Breaking News in Yuba County

WHERE TO WATCH:

DStv Box Office

OUR RATING

3.5/5 Stars

WHAT IT'S ABOUT:

After her husband goes missing, Sue Buttons, an underappreciated suburban wife, gets a taste of being a local celebrity as she embarks on a search to find him. She quickly finds herself in over her head, dodging cops, criminals and local reporters all aiming to uncover the truth. After being overlooked for so long, Sue goes to exaggerated lengths to prolong her 15 minutes of fame and keep the truth from coming out.

WHAT WE THOUGHT:

Breaking News in Yuba County harks back to that awkward comedy era of Hollywood like Napolean Dynamite. Yet, its plot is reminiscent of a Guy Ritchie movie where one small incident snowballs into a series of accidents, mistaken identities, lies and murder, stacked with a cast of big names like Awkwafina, Alison Janney, Mila Kunis, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall. It's not a film that has any real moralistic messages to convey - except maybe to be wary of the quiet ones - but it's refreshing to sit back and enjoy the storytelling instead of trying to find a deeper meaning to it all or snort at one-liner jokes.

At the centre of all the mishaps is Sue Buttons (Janney) - a soft-spoken woman that blends a little too much into the background and is ignored by her husband, sister and co-workers. When her husband dies in a compromising position, she instead files a missing person report and garners media attention for her supposedly 'abducted' husband. Unfortunately, some shady characters are also very intent on finding her husband.

There aren't many characters that you would root for in all of this mess, including the slightly pathetic Sue. Most are pretty unpleasant people you wouldn't ever want to be friends with, although their awfulness is part of the film's charm. The character development can come across as forced, but the script does a good job of juggling the big cast and giving them all just enough exposition for the motivations behind their actions.

Awkwafina was the main scene-stealer as the daughter of a gangster trying too hard to make everyone scared of her. She is weirdly terrifying and hilarious at the same time, and I like the absurdity of a woman enforcer with such a small stature. Sykes was also a force to be reckoned with, but she opted to lean heavily into her classic character like in most other movies. Still, it worked well as a bored furniture store owner that's thrilled by the idea of committing crimes with her ex-thief employee. Put the two together, and you are blessed with comedic magic.

With so many characters, however, there's bound to be a few duds. Kunis's character as Sue's half-sister was quite bland and only acted as a convenient MacGuffin to help Sue out of difficult situations, plus add her big name to the billing. To the actress, it was plain to see that this was a paycheck role that was cashed in hard.

Luckily, this had little effect on the overall film. Breaking News in Yuba County is an amusing little film, especially for those who like a sprinkling of cringe in their comedy. However, it doesn't have enough brilliant moments to give it a cult status like Burn After Reading, Napoleon Dynamite or Guy Ritchie gangster movies, but there is something there. Instead of grand cinematography and metaphors for life, its soul is the story - sometimes a bit disconnected but still darkly delightful.

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