‘Vengeance’ a hundred percent the kind of movie we need in America right now

Charlotte Murray, Staff Writer

I find myself as surprised by the movie Vengeance as Ben Manalowitz (BJ Novak) was to find semi-intelligent people in Texas. Now, I feel this is the perfect time to share that I unapologetically love The Office. I’m a typical teenager: I chug chai tea like it’s water, I thrift as if it makes me unique and I LOVE The Office. I even boycotted Netflix (to be fair, my “boycott” only lasted three weeks) when they took it out of their catalog. I’ve watched the whole show from start to finish, more times than I have fingers, and I straddle the line between regular and super crazed stalker fan. Not that I would stalk someone—I’m not crazy—but you have to wonder what kind of breakfasts John Krasinski eats to become so talented. But I digress. I went into the movie with a pre-established respect for BJ Novak as an actor and a writer. Vengeance is not the kind of movie I would’ve seen had it not been for the impressive cast (Ashton Kutcher, BJ Novak, Issa Rae) and for the fact that Novak wrote, directed and starred in the movie. Is it perfect? No. But every part of the story feels relevant to today, and as a bonus, I found myself laughing so hard I was clutching my stomach and wiping tears from my eyes.

Ben Manalowitz (Novak) is a New York journalist, living the bachelor lifestyle and convincing himself of his insightfulness as he continues to move through his relationships as noncommittally as he wishes. But don’t be fooled by his shallowness, Ben has real “thought-provoking” theories about why America is so divided, but as his skeptical editor (Issa Rae) points out, he needs a story to prove it. He’s on the hunt for the next big podcast story when he receives an unexpected call from Ty Shawson (Boyd Holbrook) saying his younger sister, one of Ben’s former hookups Abilene Shawson (Lio Tipton), is dead. After being coerced into flying to Texas for her funeral, Ben learns she led her family (Boyd Holbrook, Dove Cameron, J. Smith Cameron, Louanne Stephens, Eli Bickel, Isabella Amara) to believe they were in a serious relationship and is thrust into the family’s conspiracy that she didn’t OD but was instead murdered. Ty, looking for revenge, pulls Ben into his plot to find Abby’s killer. But the more Ben thinks about it, the more he realizes that this obvious dead-end hunt for vengeance might actually make the perfect story for his commentary podcast on America… 

It’s ironic, because this movie itself is a commentary on the misconceptions we place on each other and ourselves. For example, the liberal elites *cough* Ben *cough*, who hail from NYC and claim to be all-knowing or “woke” have more blind spots than they might think. Some of which might be the delicious aphrodisiac that is Frito pie, the correct way to support Texas college football (GO Texas Tech!), the kindness of Southerners and the importance of a good proximal WhataBurger (Side note: My father just got back from Austin, so I have a first hand source that can confirm that WhataBurgers are very real and just about everywhere). 

The beginning of the movie was slow, it drew you into the unusual conflict and the hunt for the killer was fun with some twists along the way, but overall, the story felt pretty flat. Not in a bad way, just the difference between sparkling and still water. I left the movie feeling conflicted. I was hoping for something bubbly and energizing, but instead I got quiet and thought provoking. Finishing the movie was like reading a book you didn’t like, but loved simply because of how it changed your perspective. Some part of me feels fond when looking back on my experience watching it, and another part of me feels logically unsatisfied with the ending. It didn’t need to be tied up in a nice bow, but I still felt like there were too many loose ends. So while, like me, you might not have liked the ending, or you might not have even liked the movie at all, you can admit that there was something powerfully transcendent about the message of Vengeance. It tackles the divided state of the US, but fails to dive into immigration, race, religion, or politics. This is what made it so powerful. It was a commentary on people. Not the labels we apply to them, but the content of their character. 

Bottom line: this movie might not be for everyone, but everyone should see it.