It’s a Disaster begins with Glen and Tracy (David Cross and Julia Stiles) arriving at her sister’s suburban home for a couples’ brunch, to be shared by five couples. One pair are habitually late to such events, but the others have arrived. Glen is new to the group (he and Tracy are newly dating), but the others know one another well. There are greetings and good wishes, but also bickering (some of it comical) and dismay as the Internet and cable seem to be out. Then a neighbor in a hazmat suit arrives with news of dirty bombs being exploded in the city. Has some terrible catastrophe befallen civilization?
This is where the comedy darkens, as each responds in his or her own way to the crisis: catatonia, disbelief, paranoia–or indulging in end-of-the-world drug experimentation or sex. The fewer details divulged, the better, except to say that the ending of the film is splendid.
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Faults is an interesting little film, but it has its … difficulties. Ansel (Leland Orser) is an expert on cults, but his star is on a steep decline. After a disastrous sales presentation of his self-published book, he is approached by a couple who want him to rescue their adult daughter, who is beholden to a cult called Faults. When he points out that he is on his last dollar and will only take on the task to make money to pay off his manager, the couple stick with him. They find the daughter, Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and hustle her off to a motel room for deprogramming.
Up to now this has played as comedy, with pathetic Ansel beset by one problem after another. But now things turn serious, as it quickly becomes apparent who would win a battle of wills between Ansel and Claire. There are twists, most of which can be anticipated by the audience. The change in tone can be accepted, and the obvious plot turns tolerated, if the overall story feels real (or at least entertaining). Unfortunately, the more secrets are revealed, the sillier the whole business becomes, and no one in the film can distract us from that.