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Sundance Film Festival

Sundance Film Review - When You're Finished Saving the World

When You Finish Saving The World – Still 1
Beth Garrabrant
Sundance Institute
Finn Wolfhard and Julianne Moore appear in When You Finish Saving the World by Jesse Eisenberg, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Jesse Eisenberg makes his feature directorial debut with this earnest character study about Evelyn, (After the Wedding’s Julianne Moore) an uber-liberal but socially awkward mom who is losing touch with her family and her teenage son Ziggy (Stranger Thing’s Finn Wolfhard). Evelyn manages a domestic abuse shelter while Ziggy is a budding pop musician consumed by raising the number of his online followers and gaining the attention of his first real crush.

Eisenberg, who cut his teeth as an actor in 2005 at Sundance in the award winning The Squid and the Whale, similarly blends a family drama with awkward adolescent humor fueled by overly narcissistic members of the household. Evelyn, rather than taking the time to reinvest in learning about her son’s talents and communicating with Ziggy, takes another teenager from her shelter under her wing and passive aggressively starts to affect his upcoming education and career choices. Ziggy tries to make his music social and environmentally relevant to appeal to his social activist love interest, but he has no clue about any of the political issues.

Despite stellar performances by the cast, Eisenberg’s script ebbs and flows from one over-simplistic scene to another. While he provides each character with a yearning for deeper empathy and connection to keep the audience invested in their path, Eisenberg’s [outstanding] stage experience is a disservice to his ability to portray more complex interaction. The absurdity of the dialogue, which provides equal amounts of audience winces and laughs among endless F-bombs, diminishes the family members to mere stereotypical caricatures. The overly dramatic effort would have been better served on the stage.