Quirky films are an art form and no one knows quirk better than the Duplass Brothers, who have kindly produced director/star Pat Healy’s Take Me for our viewing pleasure. The film is playing at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and is so wonderfully odd that it really must be seen.
The film opens with Ray Moody (Healy) attempting to get a loan to support his fledgling business in Los Angeles, after he fled Atlantic City due to some “unpleasantness.” But his business isn’t exactly normal—he’s in the “simulated kidnapping” trade, providing what he describes as an alternative therapy for clients who hire him to kidnap them for a multitude of reasons. Divorced, having difficulty making ends meet, and forced to constantly borrow money from his brother-in-law, Ray jumps at the chance when Anna St. Blair (Taylor Schilling) offers him an exorbitant amount of money to kidnap her for the weekend. As the viewer no doubt suspects, things are not quite what they seem, and things go hilariously pear-shaped for poor Ray.
Take Me hits numerous quirky and slightly uncomfortable elements that raise questions about its central character without making us dislike him. Ray is a weird little man, sporting a bad wig and trying desperately to justify his slightly sick business venture as curative therapy for people with eating disorders, anxiety problems, or just a need to move outside of themselves for a few hours. But he’s also curiously likable, thanks mostly to Healy’s combination of wide-eyed innocence and eagerness to please. It’s necessary for the viewer to really root for Ray right from the start, because otherwise what happens next will simply be unpalatable.
Set against Ray is Anna, played to maniacal perfection by Taylor Schilling (of Orange is the New Black). The major question that the film opens up is whether or not Anna really hired Ray to kidnap her, or whether she’s an innocent victim sucked in by someone else. At first she seems to be on board, but Ray begins to suspect that her terror is genuine, leading down an ever-weirder path as he attempts to suss out whether this is all just an elaborate game, or he’s accidentally kidnapped a woman. The film walks the line on that one, shifting back and forth and keeping the viewer (and Ray) guessing all the time. Much of this is due to Schilling’s performance, which moves from palpable terror to gleeful sadism and back again, terrifying Ray and forcing him to question everything that he sees and does.
Take Me pushes the envelope of what viewers will endure, believe, and, most importantly, laugh at. At times, it threatens to go over the top, but largely succeeds at not making the events too dark while also maintaining a tense, sometimes worrisome tone. It’s a testament to the comedic and dramatic talents of the two leading actors that they succeed as well as they do. Ray and Anna fall into a combination of conflict and comradery, as one attempts to discern what the other is doing and why. That conflict increases with every scene, and eventually the film delves into the complex of psychology that fuels Ray’s business and his reasons for doing it. Darkness beckons at the edges—“what happened in Atlantic City?” is a constant question lingering at the peripheries of the story—but the film never falls into the trap of making things truly dark. Without the comedic edge, Take Me would be unpalatable; with it, it just about succeeds.
There are those who probably will not like Take Me and that’s just fine. This kind of quirk is highly dependent on the viewer being willing to accept a degree of discomfort in every frame, and to still find a deep enjoyment in it. Personally, I just want to see Healy and Schilling make more films together.
Take Me is currently showing at the Tribeca Film Festival.