Directed by: Tate Taylor
Premise: A meek woman (Allison Janney) is suddenly widowed. She makes it appear as though her husband has been kidnapped as a way to gain fame. Meanwhile, her husband’s criminal business partners start looking for a duffle bag of missing cash.
What Works: Breaking News in Yuba County features an impressive central performance from Allison Janney. The actress is typically cast as assertive and extroverted characters but in Breaking News in Yuba County Janney plays a timid woman who feels unnoticed and underappreciated by everyone in her life. Janney plays this quite well. We can see the hurt in the subtleties of the character’s gestures and it’s too bad that the film doesn’t make better use of Janney’s performance.
What Doesn’t: Breaking News in Yuba County is a film pulled in too many different directions. It does not feel as though the cast or the crew had a coherent notion of what movie they were trying to make and the picture is a hodgepodge of clashing tones and performances. Breaking News in Yuba County is in places very comic and in others quite serious. The most obvious point of reference is Fargo and Breaking News in Yuba County comes off as a bad imitation of the Coen Brothers’ 1996 movie. The tone is all over the place. Comedy and violence can go together or contrast effectively but the choices in Breaking News in Yuba County don’t play as deliberate. The film is sitcom-like in one moment, deeply serious the next, and occasionally satirical and the transitions feel desperately random, as though no one is steering the ship. The movie’s visual style is flat and uninteresting. The picture has no atmosphere and it looks generic. Breaking News in Yuba County also suffers from too many subplots and characters. It is unclear who some of these people are and no one’s story gets enough screen time. The different storylines intersect and foil one another in ways that are probably supposed to be ironic but just come across arbitrary. Breaking News in Yuba County also suffers from some miscasting. Awkwafina plays the daughter of a crime boss and she’s supposed to be threatening or at least someone who is trying and failing to be threatening. Awkwafina has been good in other movies but nothing about her performance in Breaking News in Yuba County is convincing. Mila Kunis is cast as the sister of Allison Janney’s character but Kunis is young enough to be Janney’s daughter and nothing about their relationship feels authentic.
Bottom Line: Breaking News in Yuba County is an incoherent mix of unfunny comedy and uninteresting violence. The filmmakers strive to emulate Fargo but they fail miserably.
Episode: #848 (April 18, 2021)