New Girl Alum Jake Johnson Directs and Stars in Hilarious and Surprising Game-Themed Movie, ‘Self Reliance’

Los Angeles, CA – Actor Jake Johnson, known for his role on the TV show New Girl, has made his directorial debut with the film Self Reliance. Johnson himself takes on the lead role of Tommy, a down-on-his-luck Angeleno who gets caught up in a month-long “game” that offers a potential $1 million payout. The role allows Johnson to showcase his comedic talent for delivering outlandish ideas with deadpan sincerity. However, the film falls short in building the necessary psychological-thriller tension to truly immerse the audience in Tommy’s predicament.

Johnson’s directing style reflects his onscreen persona, with a cool nonchalance that fails to create a sense of urgency. The encounters between Tommy and his would-be killers are treated with indifference, making his situation feel more like a minor inconvenience than a life-or-death struggle. The film relies heavily on dramatic lighting and an ominous score to convey danger, but it never fully engages the audience in fearing for Tommy’s safety.

One notable sequence in the film features Tommy and fellow player Maddy (played by Anna Kendrick) hiding out in a motel. While their growing bond is effectively conveyed through montages of beer-drinking and casual snuggling, the lack of suspenseful filmmaking detracts from the overall tension. The film leans more towards a laid-back, improv-style approach reminiscent of Johnson and Kendrick’s past collaborator Joe Swanberg.

The dreamlike induction into the game and its rules, with its labyrinthine hallways and reality-TV production staff lurking in shadows, adds an intriguing texture to the film. However, the dialogue falls flat, often stating the obvious rather than allowing the audience to infer Tommy’s struggles. The characters lack depth and tend to spell out Tommy’s emotional state and challenges in an unnecessary manner.

Self Reliance has moments of oddball humor and quirkiness that work well with Johnson’s voice. However, the film hesitates to fully embrace its unique tone, holding back from going all-in on its unconventional elements. This lack of confidence leaves the audience wanting more.

In conclusion, Jake Johnson’s directorial debut, Self Reliance, falls short in delivering the psychological-thriller experience it aims for. While Johnson’s deadpan comedic talent shines through, the film lacks the necessary tension and depth to fully engage the audience. Despite its moments of oddball charm, Self Reliance fails to fully commit to its unique concept, leaving viewers wanting a more immersive experience.