Sophie Hyde’s deeply annoying film ‘Animals’ (2019) is about two deeply annoying friends living deeply annoying lives surrounded by deeply annoying people in Dublin. Having said that the film does raise an interesting question, being — how can these two idiots afford to live in such a big flat, drink so much, smoke so much and take so many drugs when they are either hardly working or not working at all? I have the feeling this movie might be a writer’s wish-fulfillment or a romanticising of actual past events in their life. I guess we’ll soon find out if we discover one of the friends is a struggling writer who is trying to finish her first nove… oh, she is.
Best friends Laura and Tyler live together, drink together and generally behave obnoxiously together as though they’d watched ‘Withnail and I’ (1987) as students one weekend and hadn’t stopped pretending they were in the movie ever since. And that’s basically it plot-wise. There’s some stuff about Laura wanting to be a writer whilst Tyler just swans about spouting inappropriate quotations, bad jokes and splashes of French (I think this is meant to make her “eccentric”) until some other stuff comes along to threaten their friendship which has to be dealt with, so it’s extremely by the numbers dramatically speaking. Much like their “hedonistic” behaviour, it’s all very vanilla.
Holliday Granger and Alia Shawkat give spirited performances at the two leads and certainly capture that chemistry close friends have and they do bounce well off each other. The big problem though is the script which is bland and unoriginal at best and smug and irritating at worst. You can feel that the dialogue has been written and the sense hanging over it all that the writer is aware they have just typed out a joke despite the fact that the humour very often falls flat. The worse culprit is the dialogue given to Tyler who, to emphasise her quirkiness, speaks almost entirely in pre-fabricated bon mots. She’s like a discount store version of ‘Ab Fab’s Patsy, although she’s written as the “idea” of how someone funny would speak without the comedic clout to justify any of it. The result is trite cliché masquerading as genuine wit.
I was also disappointed by ‘Animals’ as I’d heard that this was a film about female friendship that didn’t bother with the usual tropes regarding women in movies and that it was about more than just if they can find a man, settle down, have kids etc. Yet the entire film seems to be about almost nothing but this. Not only that but the men mooned after here are stereotypes too being either the too good to be true type or the bohemian, more interesting poet type. As I said, there’s a lot of romanticising going on here. Oh, and if a man says that he has a ”nom de plume” with no degree of irony then he said be ejected from your party immediately.
There’s also an odd lack of consequences and a strange reluctance regarding how it deals with guilt and how and where it is placed. So people do bad things and act selfishly but then the film pulls its punches and loses any sense of bravery in case we lose any sympathy for any of the characters. But this comes across as insincere, covering your ass moralising resulting in characters that might not be actually despicable but, instead, simply deeply selfish and irritating. In a movie I’m not quite sure which is worse.
‘Animals’ is also fifteen minutes too long ending on a drawn out, low-energy groggy haze, much like hangover so maybe it’s appropriate.
I’m extremely suspicious of any movie that ends with the statement of how wonderful life can be by having a flashback montage of the best moments from the film itself, running on the assumption that we too have enjoyed this journey as much as the characters and the filmmakers have. It felt both self-glorifying and unearned. Yes, life can be wonderful but if I was to have a flashback montage at any point in my life of the highlights it would most certainly not include any moments from this immediately forgettable film.