Review: The dark British comedy ‘All My Friends Hate Me’ is designed to make you squirm
Cringe comedy doesn’t get much darker than “All My Friends Hate Me,” a razor-sharp ensemble piece that finds humor and terror in a common anxiety: the fear of making a fool of yourself at a party. Directed by Andrew Gaynard and co-written by Tom Palmer and Tom Stourton, the film has the tension of a great horror movie — although the nightmare it dramatizes is painfully real.
Stourton stars as Pete, an international aid worker who gets invited to celebrate his birthday at a country estate with his old friends from university, where he had a reputation as a party animal — and a bit of a scoundrel. Very quickly, Pete realizes he’s grown apart from these people, who have their own private jokes, and who have inexplicably invited along an incorrigibly sarcastic stranger named Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns), whom Pete instantly dislikes.
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Palmer and Stourton’s screenplay is a model of efficiency. Pete’s history with his hosts — the women he made out with, the guys who remember his youthful shenanigans — only comes up as needed. The movie is more focused on what’s happening in the moment, as Pete tries to figure out if he’s being paranoid, or if his pals are mocking him behind his back … and perhaps even actively conspiring to make him miserable.
Gaynard and this excellent cast carefully avoid tipping their hand. Every interaction Pete has — especially with Harry, who seems determined to needle his new acquaintance for no discernible reason — could be read as merely awkward or as actively hostile. Pete could be having the worst college reunion ever; or he could be excessively self-conscious, because his chums didn’t immediately greet him as the mature do-gooder he now imagines himself to be.
It’s easy to see echoes here of British buddy comedies like “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” which this picture reflects like a funhouse mirror. It’s also a good companion piece to the excellent recent American indie “Shiva Baby” — also about a party that becomes a kind of trial.
But “All My Friends Hate Me” is very much its own thing. It is funny at times; but for the most part the filmmakers would rather make viewers bury their heads in their hands. This movie is uncompromisingly discomfiting, meant to remind people of all those drunken nights where they overreacted to every well-intentioned joke, and woke up choking on the stench of burned bridges.
'All My Friends Hate Me'
Rated: R, for language throughout, drug use and brief graphic nudity
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: Stars March 11, the Landmark, West Los Angeles; Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood; available March 25 on VOD
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