2023 | Unrated (R equivalent for language and sexual content) | starring Kristine Kujath Thorp and Eirik Saether | written & directed by Kristoffer Borgli | 1h 37m | In Norwegian and Swedish with Subtitles |
It’s very interesting how Scandinavian countries have risen up to fill western cinema’s satire void. With American movie studios shying away from any movie that says anything with a backbone, much less satirizes a culture that the are currently helping to shape, the Sweeds and the Norweigans have put their lens to the culture, be it masculinity (Force Majeure), modern art (The Square), the class divide (Triangle of Sadness) and aimless urban youth (The Worst Person in the World). With Sick of Myself, Kristoffer Borgli joins Ruben Ostlund as a welcome satirist in this series of movies that look at the social rot at the center of our generation with a deadpan critical eye.
Signe (Kristine Kujath Thorp) is a known narcissist who has to be the center of attention in her friend group. When her boyfriend Thomas (Eirik Saether) starts getting recognized with shows for his contemporary art, Signe’s attempts to compete ratchet up from an increasingly absurd series of lies to self-harm. Eventually she finds the solution: a banned Russian medication that causes a skin disease that Signe poisons herself with as a way to slingshot her way to fame, fortune and being loved.
Sick of Myself has a very straight-drama tone. It completely immerses us in the life and mindset of Signe. It begins a lot like the kind of millennial New York rom-com that would follow the modern love life starring Jenny Slate or Lena Dunham. And then it starts unraveling on us. Signe’s intolerance for others in the limelight starts with subtle jabs at her boyfriend’s art show. “The venue isn’t very big so it will look more crowded than it is”. It really kicks off when she intervenes in a dog attack suffered by a customer at the coffee shop where she works – casting herself as a humble hero who saved the day, making sure to not change out of her bloody clothes before everyone sees it first. The film is propelled by Kristine Kujath Thorp in a harrowing performance that sacrifices vanity at every turn. Thorp allows us to both feel for and laugh at Signe’s unstoppable destructive behavior. It is outstanding work.
It takes a minute to get on the movie’s wavelength, but once I was dialed in I did love this movie. It’s the kind of satire America doesn’t make anymore. The kind of movie Alexander Payne hasn’t made since Citizen Ruth and Election, which presents, gets us in the head of and completely mocks the selfish actions of it’s leads without pointing a finger and telling us “this is wrong”. It’s done with the structure of a Descent into Madness movie. Think Black Swan and Saint Maud with the audience handcuffed to the hip of a character that can’t stop themselves from taking that next step to destroy themselves and everything around them. A character piece that slips so quietly into satirical absurdity in it’s 2nd act, that at that point in the film it feels like the natural next step for this character.
Perhaps the film plays its hand too early having two leads literally talk about narcissism and whether or not a narcissist gets the big promotions or big promotions make narcissists. A more gradual unfolding may have been nice. Still, Sick of Myself is a funny, serrated satire of the social media generation, main character syndrome and a certain crowd that craves an endless amount of attention. Even in that crowd, Signe is a unique character and a force to be reckoned with. I really enjoyed it.