After hitting paid VOD services in February, “Breaking News in Yuba County” now comes to Blu-ray and DVD on March 23rd from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Directed by Tate Taylor (“The Help”) and written by Amanda Idoko, this pitch-black comedy misses far more often than it hits, leading to an often disjointed and tonally imbalanced experience.
The home release does not include any bonus features, so this one is all about the film itself. Let’s take a look.
After her husband goes missing, Sue Buttons (Allison Janney), an under-appreciated suburban wife, gets a taste of being a local celebrity as she embarks on a city-wide search in Yuba County to find him. In an effort to prolong her newfound fame, she stumbles into hilarious hijinx as her world turns upside down, dodging a wannabe mobster (Awkwafina), a relentless local policewoman (Regina Hall), her half-sister (Mila Kunis) a local new reporter desperate for a story, and her husband’s dead-beat brother (Jimmi Simpson), who are all set out to uncover the truth behind the disappearance.
Taylor is a director with an eclectic filmography, having directed family favorites to adult thrillers, and now he’s planting his flag in another new territory: dark comedy. Boasting a stellar ensemble cast that would elevate any other film, “Yuba County” has more than enough talent at its disposal, but even these stars can’t seem to lift the film beyond mediocrity.
Janney is always great and committed, and may be the only reason to watch the film. To be honest, her myriad of eccentric co-stars do more to detract from her performance than add to it. Everyone has their time to shine, but whereas Janney plays it straighter, the majority of ensemble are swinging for the fences with zaniness and over-acting, which only adds to the already imbalanced tone.
The story itself isn’t convoluted or overly complicated, yet unfortunately the many characters and motivations that are explored at times can lead to a disjointed experience. The choices by the main character lead to crazier circumstances and would be the perfect opportunity to go all-out wild, but what we end up with is a paint-by-numbers, safe choice that only adds to the flat and lackluster attempt.
Cinematically there is nothing new or exciting happening. Even in its darker and more action-heavy sequences the filmmakers fail to lean into the absurdity and instead play it straightforward. There is an important balance between straight and the absurd – films like “Fargo” and “In Bruges” do this to masterful effect – but Taylor fails to strike that balance in every way.
Film critic and member of the North Carolina Film Critic Association.