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Review: Karen (2021)

Karen (2021)

Directed by: Coke Daniels

Premise: A black couple (Jasmine Burke and Cory Hardrict) moves into a wealthy neighborhood and are a target of harassment by their white neighbor (Taryn Manning) named Karen.

What Works: If you squint hard enough you can see a sense of humor in Karen. There are flashes of self-awareness that cue viewers that this isn’t supposed to be taken seriously.

What Doesn’t: In certain circles it has become fashionable to criticize movies for “going woke.” The critique is often lobbed in bad faith against anything that has a female or minority protagonist or entertains any kind of socially relevant themes. But 2021’s Karen is an example of “woke” filmmaking and it is as cringe inducing as that sounds. The movie literalizes the slang term “Karen,” which describes a kind of entitled white woman who makes life difficult for others, especially people of color. Not necessarily a bad idea for a movie, but the filmmakers of Karen screw it up at every turn. Humor can be found around the edges of the picture but it’s crowded out by the film’s self-seriousness. Karen is intended to be a thriller in the mold of films from the early 1990s like Single White Female and Unlawful Entry but Karen isn’t scary or tense. It instead plays as unintentional parody. The characters speak like outraged Twitter users and the acting is cartoonish. The film is also disconnected from economic reality. The neighborhood is full of homes that are at least half-a-million-dollar properties. Somehow Karen is able to live there despite having no income (she’s a widowed stay-at-home mom) and the black couple are employed as a blogger and a social worker. Nobody in this movie could actually afford to live in this neighborhood.

Bottom Line: Karen should have been a Saturday Night Live sketch, not a feature film. Its attempts at humor and social commentary are utterly hapless. If anything, Karen highlights what Get Out did so well. 

Episode: #890 (February 6, 2022)