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Mackenzie Davis carries 'Izzy Gets … Across Town' but ultimately, do we care if she makes it?

Mackenzie Davis carries 'Izzy Gets … Across Town' but ultimately, do we care if she makes it?
McKenzie Davis in the movie "Izzy Gets … Across Town." (Shout! Factory)

Most road movies span states, but in “Izzy Gets … Across Town,” the trip is merely from Santa Monica to Los Feliz. But carless, hungover and desperate to stop an engagement party, Izzy’s journey is nevertheless epic.

Writer-director Christian Papierniak makes his feature directorial debut with this punk-tinged day-in-the-life flick. His greatest asset is the winsome Mackenzie Davis as his leading lady. She makes a stained catering jacket look stylish and brings an edgy mania to her wildly unreliable character.

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Izzy wakes up in the Santa Monica apartment of George (Lakeith Stanfield) with very little memory of how she got there. Checking Facebook offers her a sign, and some direction: the engagement party of her ex, Roger (Alex Russell), sets off her expletive-laced trip via bike, scooter and hitchhiking, where she encounters every strange character and every complicated, difficult relationship she has in L.A.

The film has an appealingly lo-fi ’90s feel, from the grungy punk soundtrack and purple-tinged abstract dream sequences. Izzy is a struggling musician, and one of the best moments is a Heavens to Betsy cover that Izzy reluctantly performs with her sister and former band mate Virginia (Carrie Coon), the two warily eyeing each other as they harmonize perfectly, strumming children’s guitars, the intensity growing.

The entire cast is incredible, if somewhat underused. In addition to Coon, who just about steals the movie, and Stanfield, Alia Shawkat, Haley Joel Osment, Rob Huebel and Annie Potts also make short appearances that only leave you wanting more. Davis is committed, and her charisma sustains our day with Izzy, but the character isn’t someone we trust or want to spend all that much time with — Izzy is a user and a liar, and though we end up rooting for her, she proves to be a person who doesn’t deserve rooting for.

Izzy believes very much in fate, even though she’s seemingly a whirling dervish of destruction, she’s also clearly a person who creates her own reality, ascribing tremendous meaning to symbols and signs she discovers along the way. While she believes it’s her destiny to make it to this party, it’s the twists and turns in her journey that are truly fated, forcing Izzy to confront the demons and loved ones of her past and present.

Papierniak’s film is energetic, jam-packed with talent and has a likable indie throwback feel with some memorable moments. Will Izzy get across town? All that matters is what she learns along the way, right? But in an ultimately frustrating ending, we question if she even grew at all, and if not, why we spent the time with her at all — especially when all of those other characters have the potential to be so much more compelling. In the end, Papierniak doesn’t offer up an answer.

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‘Izzy Gets … Across Town’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

Playing: Starts Friday, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; AMC Torrance; AMC Norwalk

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