Sundance Film Review: Antibirth

Natasha Lyonne and Chloë Sevigny can't save Danny Perez's mess of a film


Directed by

  • Danny Perez


  • Natasha Lyonne
  • Chloë Sevigny
  • Meg Tilly

Release Year

  • 2016

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    sundance film Sundance Film Review: AntibirthThere are at least six different movies in Antibirth, and none of them work in tandem. Director, writer, and AnCo buddy Danny Perez tries too many things all at once without any of the finesse to make this either gel or implode in a brilliant mess. Instead, it’s just a mess, one that sputters in all sorts of oddball, incoherent directions that are mostly frustrating and dull.

    Natasha Lyonne stars as druggie fuck-up Lou, who lives in a remote shack, kind of works at a motel, and knows just about every tool bag across Michigan. Her day-to-day involves endless bong hits, bottles of [insert name of liquor], mounds of cigarettes, and crummy microwavable food. That all changes when she discovers she’s mysteriously pregnant.

    “I think I’d remember if I had someone’s cock in me,” she sardonically spits back at her pal Sadie, played by Chloë Sevigny. Oh right, someone tricked her into this movie, too, and while both of them work well together, they mostly wander around aimlessly in a red Saturn because Perez can’t decide what film he wants to make. Still, they have their moments.


    Unfortunately, their story together is corrupted by the handful of ideas that Perez crudely slaps on this film, turning what could have been a tongue-in-cheek body horror thriller on addiction into a mad farce that nibbles at everything from rape to child rearing to alien conspiracies to the military industrial complex. It’s all there in not-so-hilarious fashion.

    Well, that’s not true. There are certainly laughs, but they mostly come from the astonishment at how this batshit crazy film ever came to fruition. Did anyone care to read the script before they signed on? Were they also on drugs?

    What’s ironic is how there isn’t enough narcotics in the world to make this work on any sort of psychedelic level. It’s way too frustrating, even if it’s slightly amusing watching an unrecognizable Meg Tilly sleep through her lines and stumble around as if she walked off the set of another nearby film. Nope, it’s too aggravating to bother.


    Part of the reason is that Perez is hardly an assured enough director for a feature-length film. He can admirably frame a scene or two — and there are some intriguing establishing shots here and there — but he’s still visibly in the motions of learning filmmaking, as exemplified by his obnoxious crosscutting, lack of tension, and, well, non-existent skills at storytelling.

    You’ve seen “Towelie,” right? South Park’s fifth season gem that aired nearly 15 years ago? It’s one of the series’ most irreverent episodes for a number of reasons (ahem, a talking stoner towel being one of them), but above all, for its uncanny ability at escalating its ludicrous story in an over-the-top fashion that’s now become a hallmark of the show.

    In a way, it feels like Perez is trying to tap into that chaotic humor, only he’s no Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Those two were able to get away with being so stupid because they were also being smart. By comparison, Perez takes all of the clever ideas in Antibirth, makes them stupid, bundles ’em together, and walks away as if that’s enough.


    Which is why Antibirth feels more like an anti-film, a piss-poor assembly of remarkable cult actors and brazen narratives that start off divorced without ever being married. That’s not even taking into account the pitiful CGI, the tasteless Instagram filters, and the underwhelming gore that totally undersells its gnarly premise. What a disappointing, irrelevant misfire.

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