Suppose the country decided that instead of banning, taxing and forcing ruinous insurance premiums on gun nuts, they simply tracked “Loners” among us, made them wear tracking headbands with a giant “L” on them, able to tase-shock “dangerous” behavior that might lead to mass shootings?
Hey, anything to avoid doing the obvious, right?
“Loners” is a groaning, labored and low-budget comic satire about just such a future, where such a program, enthusiastically endorsed by a persecuting, scapegoating, tweeting buffoon of a president.
There are ideas here, just not laughs, or in any event, not many.
Actor turned writer Neal McGowan envisions an America where Homeland Security is waging a ” “war on loneliness,” where action recovery teams might show up at any moment where a “headbander” is choosing to avoid the company of the rest of the human race.
“Society-loving Americans” have to be protected from “people hating freaks,” y’see.
There are “mandatory guidelines” which the headbanded must follow, all to avoid those neighbors standing in front of a camera described the latest mass murderer as “a quiet man who kept to himself.”
The “Loners” we meet hit most of the demographic warning signs — white, male, cut off from others. Let’s regulate that away, a draconian series of edicts and guidelines. that can lead to frantic phone calls.
“The government needs…me to have 100 friends” by the end of the day, Lincoln (Brian Letscher of “Scandal”) pleads into his phone. Success! He’s signed up another. “Thanks, Mom!”
They’re jeered by teen punks.
“How many loners does it take to screw in a lightbulb? ONE. Because, you know, no choice.”
They can’t work alone, a required “work buddy” must be issued. “A registered loner” has to check in with new neighbors.
“I just prefer to spend my time alone, is all.
Sure, mass shootings are up. But hey, we’re TRYING.
“Loners” is built around a marathon meeting of Lone ANON, a therapy ground led by the ditsy Mike (Keith Stevenson), where Lincoln, an ex-jock Sports Authority sales associate, standoffish yard service guy Tanner (Tyson Turrou ), librarian Franny (Brenda Davidson), sneaky-loner businessman Ed (David Christian Welborn), IT nerd Dabney (Neil McGowan), sociopathic conspiracy buff Jeremy (Khary Payton) and defiantly solitary Clara (Denise Dowse) meet and try not to interact.
It doesn’t matter that holding hands or other bodily contact will cut the mandatory meeting time in half. They’re sure as hell not doing that.
But something is up, something has their group red flagged and under surveillance. Clara is busted, the meetings take on an “underground” tone. And puzzled loner Senise (Melinda Paladino) takes Clara’s place.
Their meetings are being watched and discussed high up in the paranoid corridors of power. And a mysterious Mr. Tessman (famed character actor Stephen Tobolowsky) is monitoring their meeting, too, scheming to undo it all, it appears.
A priest drops (Tucker Smallwood) drops in for a few words of encouragement.
“Introvert, a word that’s not that dissimilar from ‘pervert.’…”Make a friend, or BURN in HELL!'”
And the group slowly, reluctantly “bonds.” Sort of.
“You work in a library? I didn’t know they still had those!”
“Did you ever?”
The situation has more promise than the script keeps, as even Tobolowsky is lost in a land of no laughs.
The group therapy is nonsensical, which is fine, but not cutting edge funny or silly funny to go along with that, which isn’t.
First-time feature director Eryn Tramonn can’t find laughs in the material, which doesn’t hit its satiric points hard enough (guns, mass shootings by disaffected white males, a culture fighting every idea that could reduce this threat — regulating “loners” rather than the weapons they use) and doesn’t have enough fun with its “types.”
Davidson is the lone cast member to hint at knowing how to play up the humor, and her mere presence makes for “Loners”‘ best gag.
Librarians are a perceived threat?
MPAA Rating: unrated
Cast: Brian Letscher, Melissa Paladino, Brenda Davidson, Tyson Turrou, David Christian Welborn and Stephen Tobolowsky
Credits: Directed by Eryc Tramonn, script by Neil McGowan. An Indie Rights release.
Running time: 1:31