Opening 24 Jun 2021
Not much happens in Stanlow, nestled in the quiet county of Yuba, USA. When it does Sue Buttons (Allison Janney) knows, since watching televised news programs relieves her life’s mundane tediousness. Today, her birthday, Sue chances on seeing husband Karl (Matthew Modine) leaving work at the bank. Naturally, she follows only to get an eyeful, come eye-to-eye with his mistress (Bridget Everett), be eyewitness to his death, plus having the pleasure of putting him six feet under. Which certainly changes the game plan. Meanwhile Petey (Jimmi Simpson), thanks to brother Karl’s financial shenanigans, has the inept demented duo Mina (Awkwafina) and Ray (Clifton Collins, Jr.) barge into his workplace making demands; understandably, Debbie (Ellen Barkin) and Rita (Wanda Sykes), his feisty lesbian bosses, get involved. Back to Sue, who reports Karl missing, albeit Detective Cam Harris (Regina Hall) and Officer Jones (T. C. Matherne) do not quite buy her story. Then Sue tells sister Nancy (Mila Kunis), a local news reporter, and ultimately, wins high-profile TV personality Gloria Michaels’ (Juliette Lewis) attention. In the meantime, Petey and Rita pull a heist; the cops hear Sue’s alternate-reality version about Karl’s whereabouts; Mina and Ray start popping-off people like flies; Petey’s Jonelle (Samira Wiley) has a run-in with Ray; Chief Burgess (Dominic Burgess) also develops doubts; and Sue, desperately tries to stay in the limelight while tiptoeing through her self-sown garden of lies after years of blending into the background.
When director Tate Taylor’s (The Girl on the Train, 2016) satiric comedy begins, it has the feel of his The Help (2011), set during the 1960s, yet as Breaking News spins-out it looses its equilibrium, edge, and biting wit—although there are flashes throughout. Nonetheless, the cast does a commendable job depicting their quirky characters amid first-time screenwriter Amanda Idoko’s top-heavy character-wise script; Breaking News zing is lost in its convoluted style, as Tate fumbles the reins. Editor Lucy Donaldson tangles things by giving every character’s comedic capers onscreen time, plus tying off every loose end, ultimately effecting the timing. Filming in Natchez, Mississippi, cinematographer Christina Voros captures the southern charm, while keeping up with the action that Jeff Beal’s music bounces around and along to.
Lots happen in Breaking News In Yuba County: its buffoonery takes potshots at different norms in current societies, while leaving a wake of characters’ bodies. As the ubiquitously unquenchable malignant news cycle whirls on, though, Allison Janney’s Sue Button gains our affection. Janney skillfully portrays Sue’s vulnerability, her neediness yet basic good-heartedness, and perseverance, making it feasible to imagine Sue finding her place in the sun. (Marinell Haegelin)