Fantastic Fest 2010: Drones
“Quirky verging on zany” is what you ought to expect of a comedy coming from Joss Whedon alums Amber Benson and Adam Busch. Not to discredit the coupled directing team, who seem to have forged their own style and sensibility, but Drones sure is plenty quirky indeed.
The story of Drones takes place over the course of a week and is shot entirely within a small office building. Johnathan M. Woodward, another Whedon vet, plays Brian, a proud and dedicated worker bee who keeps his personal life simple in order to be a more productive drone. His life is mildly upended one day when he discovers his best friend Clark (Samm Levine) is an alien, and that it’s not uncommon for aliens to live and work among us. Before long, at Clark’s behest, he begins a romantic relationship with coworker Amy (Angela Bettis). That’s all there really is to the movie, but, while the twists aren’t shocking or revelatory or even all that relevant to the characters, they are are funny, and it would be a shame to know the plot before seeing it.
Woodward steps up to be an exceptional straight man, and his schlubby demeanor and protestant work ethic make for a good character. His relationship with Amy is odd, but they have the kind of silly, overwritten chemistry that works well in zippy television comedies like Pushing Daisies or Better Off Ted. Levine is quintessentially Levine here–meaning very funny, very nerdy, and very neurotic–and Dave Allen reprises the cool, hippie, Dave Allen type to hilarious effect. Some of the characterization is a bit easy, as with Brian’s boss, Pete (James Urbaniak), who is cool, methodical, and values productivity above all else. But even his character is successful when the writers work to have fun with the archetype.
Drones is a simple little movie, but it’s offbeat and funny enough to attract some dedicated fans. Benson and Busch have a keen understanding of office life and absurdist humor, and they mix the two to impressive ends. And though it never feels like there are any serious stakes, and while the human arc of the film is well-worn territory, there are plenty of unique and surprising touches to elevate Drones to comfort-film status.