Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: It’s a Disaster vs. The Kitchen, two indie movies about parties gone horribly awry.
PremiseBoth The Kitchen and It’s a Disaster explore the emotional minefield that must be navigated any time someone throws a party for family and friends. It’s a Disaster features an outsider (David Cross) meeting his girlfriend (Julia Stiles)’s friends for brunch. The brunch is heading down the tubes after one of the couples (Rachel Boston and Kevin Brennan) announce their pending divorce—when another friend shows up with bad news. A “bunch of dirty bombs” have just gone off downtown. Looks like they’ll have to spend the movie trapped in this house. What could go wrong? The Kitchen‘s premise is simpler: Laura Prepon has just dumped her philandering boyfriend on the eve of her 30th birthday. The main action of the film takes place at her birthday party, which is thrown by her “best guy friend” and attended by her sister and a motley crew of her other friends. As the guests get drunker, drama (and comedy) ensues.Advantage: It’s a Disaster
Cool Party, ManThe only thing worse than a couples’ brunch is when one of the couples at that brunch openly hates each other. The only thing more stressful than a 30th birthday party is a 30th birthday party just after you’ve broken up with your longtime boyfriend. The defining feature of brunch is daytime drinking—as Brennan tells Cross, a glass of whiskey will “help you get through this”—which means moderating responsibility with getting so blasted that you forget about the soul-sucking pain of getting dressed up (or dressed at all) before noon on a Sunday. As for The Kitchen: 30 is the next significant birthday after 21, and unless you’re married or headed there, turning 30 puts you up for questions about “where you see this all going” that require an actual, honest answer. On the upside, you don’t have to pretend to be sober after your third Bloody Mary. On the downside, no breakfast food. “This is the whitest party I’ve ever been to,” announces Prepon’s lone male black friend. We’d suggest he check out the It’s a Disaster guestlist.Advantage: The Kitchen
Is That Your Ex?Where to announce the breakup? You can do it beforehand, as Prepon does with the cheating Bryan Greenberg in The Kitchen, and risk the awkwardness of the ex showing up at the party (he does). Yikes! On the other hand, what could be less comfortable than announcing the breakup of a marriage over brunch? That’s the tack that Brennan and Boston take, and it seems to go over swimmingly, until they find out they can’t just send everyone home. Also, David Cross sees pictures of Stiles with another man, whose name is a mystery to her friends. Looks like she’s a serial dater, which could be pretty awkward, although it would appear that they’re stuck, for the time being at least, due to the whole bomb thing. The ex showing up at the party is uncomfortable, but mainly sad and stupid. Announcing your breakup over brunch? That is high-level sociopath behavior.Advantage: It’s a Disaster
Maybe We Should Take OffThe worst thing about hosting a party is that first nobody shows up, then nobody will go home. It’s a Disaster takes this principle to an extreme degree; maybe we wish that our guests would die, but rarely is that wish literalized. The Kitchen takes its setting from its name, which gives it a claustrophobic, play-like quality. It also mirrors the weird geographic centrality that parties take on—often one that means that they occupy the least convenient room in the house. While that may seem like a disaster, it’s nothing compared to the almost-instant collapse of internal society that takes place in It’s a Disaster. The Kitchen includes people making out and randomly taking their shirts off. It’s a Disaster features people wearing bedsheets and—a fate worse than any dirty bomb—playing acoustic guitar at a party.Advantage: It’s a Disaster
Everyone Was Pretty Wasted Last NightThe mark of any good party is that the guests all wake up wondering exactly how ashamed they should be about last night. Prepon’s sister gets a good jump on this, by outing her best friend as being not-so-secretly in love with her. Plus, her friends have zero problems hooking up with her recent ex (“You’re so political!”), which does not seem to be a recent development. At least they can blame it on the alcohol, something Erinn Hayes and Blaise Miller can’t claim as an excuse for their bedsheet-toga-clad jam session. On the other hand, they don’t seem to need much encouragement to get nude and hop into bed, so maybe they don’t think it requires explanation or apology? Also, it looks like America Ferrera is double-fisting wine in the early afternoon. It’s a well-known fact that situationally inappropriate nudity and drunkenness are recipes for a very memorable party.Advantage: It’s a Disaster
DirectorIt’s a Disaster is Todd Berger’s second crack at directing a feature. The Kitchen is Ishai Setton’s third, which gives him the edge in experience, if not commercial success. Both directors are veterans of the indie circuit, although Berger has written two shorts in the Kung Fu Panda universe. Despite those two sterling credits to his name, this is probably a wash.Advantage: Tie
The VerdictPicking a winner between these two is tough. They’re both indie movies that set their sights on a cramped interior as a way of exploring their characters’ emotional lives and interpersonal interactions. It’s a Disaster gets the edge for exploring an old theme (the apocalypse) in a new way (over brunch, which can often seem like the end of the world).Winner: It’s a Disaster