COME PLAY (2020)
Starring Azhy Robertson, Gillian Jacobs, John Gallagher Jr., Winslow Fegley, Jayden Marine, Gavin MacIver-Wright, Rachel Wilson, Alana-Ashley Marques, Dalmar Abuzeid, Ishan Morris, Ana Araujo and Kate Fenton.
Screenplay by Jacob Chase.
Directed by Jacob Chase.
Distributed by Focus Features. 96 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Before she became known as one of the smartest, hippest, edgiest comic actresses around, Gillian Jacobs did her time in cheesy B-movies. In fact, I have interviewed her twice. The first time was for a dark 2008 morality tale called Gardens of the Night, in which she played a woman who had been kidnapped by a pedophile as a little girl, and had grown up to become a numbed junkie and prostitute. The second time I spoke with her was a few years later in 2012, when she was in the TV series Community, where she had proved her funny hipster chops.
At the time of that second chat, I mentioned our first discussion to her. “Holy moly! Very different kind of a project,” Jacobs said, laughing. “I had done a string of films that were similar in tone and content to Gardens of the Night, meaning I had played a lot of prostitutes, strippers, homeless runaway teens, drug addicts and rape victims, so I would say that Community was a welcome change of pace for me.”
“That’s your wheelhouse,” interjected her Community co-star Jim Rash, who was also at the interview.
“That’s my former wheelhouse,” Jacobs corrected, though she admitted she hoped to juggle more serious roles with her comic work. As Jacobs has become more respected as an actress, she has sometimes dipped her toe back into drama, but it was mostly in more blatantly comic roles.
The imaginative and intelligent chiller Come Play is the first return to straight drama that I can think of in years. Unlike the old days, she is no longer playing of prostitutes, strippers, homeless runaway teens, drug addicts and rape victims. In fact, in this film she goes in pretty much the opposite direction, playing a doting mother of an autistic boy who is becoming more and more fearful that her son is being targeted by a mysterious monster.
She’s no longer the victim. Now she’s the protector. That’s her new wheelhouse.
Which is not to say that Jacobs has the lead role here. That goes to young Azhy Robertson, playing the tricky part of Oliver, a non-verbal, mentally challenged little boy who gets drawn into a rabbit hole of potential evil through his electronic devices.
Oliver’s only way of communications is through an app on his iPad, so it is obviously something vital to his world. Which is why it is so disconcerting that evil comes to him in the form of an apparently innocent children’s e-Book app, Misunderstood Monsters, the story of a lonesome monster named Larry, who, like Oliver, feels like an outsider and only wants to be accepted.
However, what appears to be a simple morality fable starts becoming more and more threatening and scary. Larry seems to be breaking out of his story and appearing in the real world. It’s a smart tech-savvy variation on a pretty standard plotline – things like The Badabook, A Monster Calls and Before I Wake have trod on similar grounds in recent years.
With its dark fairy tale plotline and kid-friendly setup, Come Play is more chilling than actually all-out frightening. (After all, it is rated PG-13…) It’s not the world’s most original film, but thanks to a clever, atmospheric story and fine acting by Robertson and Jacobs, as well as John Gallagher Jr. as the slightly estranged dad, it’s definitely worth a watch.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2020 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 30, 2020.