“Messy” defined by Mirriam-Webster’s Dictionary is as follows: “marked by confusion, disorder, or dirt.” Mo McRae’s feature debut A Lot of Nothing is absolutely messy, but in the best way possible. The movie starts off being one thing and then, through a series of plot twists and reveals, becomes something entirely different and provides for one hell of a good time. Audiences will be perplexed throughout the movie but then will be laughing out loud at the wild absurdity and madness that goes on throughout the feature. For his feature debut, both directing and co-writing with co-writer Sarah Kelly Kaplan, Mo McRae shows that he is certainly one to look out for.
A Lot of Nothing follows James (Y’lan Noel) and his wife Vanessa (Cleopatra Coleman) as they live in an affluent neighbourhood and go on about their day minding their own business. This is until one day when Vanessa tells her husband that their neighbour, Brian (Justin Hartley), referred to her as “you people” and then a news story comes out that Brian, a cop, shot an unarmed child and took his life. With all the tragedy in the world now, Vanessa decides to take it upon herself to take things into her own hands and make Brian answer for the crime he committed.
Mo McRae and Sarah Kelly Kaplan deliver an absolute home run of a script that provides the social commentary needed and the absolute insane third act that brings this movie to the forefront. There is so much to unpack and examine in this script that it almost feels like a pseudo sequel to Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You. A Lot of Nothing has a lot to say, and while it says it all, it also delivers one of the biggest and best twists audiences don’t see coming. It provides such an unexpected turn of events that is masterfully delivered by the cast, bringing together this social commentary and becoming something so much more than that.
Y’lan Noel and Cleopatra Coleman portray the characters of James and Vanessa perfectly as they are the perfect couple. They have everything going for them: good jobs, a great marriage, and a happy life. Y’lan playing the level-headed, cool-headed lawyer manages to exude confidence, ready to put out any fires and make sure that whatever has gone wrong can be fixed. His portrayal of this character almost feels second nature to him as he has it down to a science. Cleopatra Coleman, playing the justifiably outraged woman wanting to take a stand, not wanting to tolerate the hate anymore, delivers a fiery passionate performance that lingers and haunts its audience. Justin Hartley’s portrayal of Brian, a cop whose committed an irredeemable act, is so lathered in guilt and remorse that Hartley just wears his heart on his sleeve when his back is against the wall. These three actors deliver their all and their performances elevate this incredibly well written script to new heights and help pack the punch A Lot of Nothing needs to bring it to the recognition it deserves.
With a script as political and bonkers as the one that Mo McRae and Sarah Kelly Kaplan deliver, with strong performances by Y’Lan Noel, Cleopatra Coleman, and Justin Hartley, A Lot of Nothing commands your attention and rewards its audience with an unbelievable final product. Such a feature debut has not been seen in a long time, but could be in the same world as Jordan Peele and Boots Riley’s first features. A Lot of Nothing takes risks with high rewards that will certainly linger with its audience.
Screening during the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.
SXSW Screening Information:
*Sunday, March 13th, Screening @ 3:45pm CT, Alamo Lamar D
*Monday, March 14th, On-line Screening @ 9:00 am CT
*Monday, March 14th, Screening @ 12:45 pm CT, Violet Crown Cinema 2
*Monday, March 14th, Screening @ 1:15 pm CT, Violet Crown Cinema 4
*Friday, March 18th, Screening @ 3:30 pm CT, Alamo Lamar A
For more information, head to the official SXSW webpage.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.