Friday, 6/14/2019

Quick-Witted Humor

THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE is the opening film at FILMFEST MÜNCHEN 2019

Quick-Witted Humor

Talk to the hand: THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE

When director Riley Stearns and lead actor Jesse Eisenberg present their celebrated comedy THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE on June 27, they'll be bringing Hollywood glamor to Munich — even though the subject of their film isn't all that glamorous.

"I want to be what intimidates me," Casey tells his martial-arts instructor when they meet for the first time. A lot of things intimidate him, most of all the members of a motorcycle gang who have beat him up. Martial-arts lessons should prevent that from happening again by turning the timid, soft-spoken bookkeeper into a real man. But what is a real man? And what exactly are these mysterious night courses all about?

Riley Stearns, who also wrote the film's screenplay, uses lots of dark humor to dissect outdated ideas of masculinity and questionable social norms. It turns out that a karate suit doesn't make a man. A loser with a hangdog look won't become a Doberman pinscher when he earns a colored belt. But maybe it doesn't need to come to that. The hilarious attempts at fighting dismantle a society's obsession with self-optimization which is considerably more dangerous than nocturnal thuggery.


Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg at the dojo, director Riley Stearns

Jesse Eisenberg is perfectly cast in this comedic film. The Oscar-nominated actor (THE SOCIAL NETWORK) is known for playing neurotic characters who don't fit the usual mold of a hero. When he plays an insecure nobody who would so like to be somebody, it's just as funny as it is touching: an absurd and yet very human search for meaning in a world in which a lot of things just don't make sense.