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Movie review: 'Locked Down' offers itchy, familiar view of mid-pandemic life

The movie, now streaming on HBO Max, isn't awesome. But its claustrophobia feels familiar.

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"Locked Out" has a portrait of pandemic life. (Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Locked Down,” a strange hybrid of two different types of movie and available for streaming now on HBO Max, isn’t great. It’s a not-so-romantic rom-com that, thanks to a pandemic and an inferior choice of wine, segues into a not-so-heisty heist flick.

It’s pro health care workers and anti The Man.

And when it opens, the dialogue is so thick with its own cleverness that it’s exhausting — though, its claustrophobic stars Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor eventually bring it down a notch to something less frantic.

It is, however, an itchy and familiar portrait of a certain kind of pandemic experience: that of middle-class humans who are healthy, in body though not necessarily thriving mentally, who will likely keep their roof and be able to indulge in the return of a smoking habit — but might have to sell off a luxury item.

“Locked Down,” written by Steven Wright and directed by Doug Liman, starts with the quarantine — when it looks like the spread of COVID-19 can be licked in just two weeks. Linda (played by Hathaway) and Paxton (Ejiofor) have broken up but are spending the lockdown together in their shared London home. She’s mostly sequestered in a bedroom where she conducts some ugly online meetings, first professionally dressed from top to bottom, then, as she unravels, descending into pajama pants and Zoom shirts.

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He’s in a different bedroom — his clothes hung from a portable rack — but also free ranges more through the home and occasionally pops into the middle of the street to recite poetry. (Reviews from the neighbors are, as one would expect of people trapped in their own boxes, a mix of deep, soul-satisfied approval and “shut up.”)

It’s the moments of mutual shedding here that are so, so great. All pretenses and politeness are being sloughed off to reveal these wild humans beneath.

The scenes:

Linda squeezes forth a dramatic and confessional monologue about a recent hotel room tirade she had. She broke a mirror because she could see her face in it.

"If you don't tell anybody, it didn't happen," she says.

During a Zoom meeting with an everywhiterichman Ben Stiller, the screen glitches, and he tells her “your face is frozen with this look of exasperation.”

Linda has a wild, punk rock moment in the backyard, dancing along to music streamed from her iPhone — this burst of pure familiar energy; Paxton has cut loose on his motorcycle on the open roads, stopping to sit with goats for awhile and returns home dazed and blissed out by this unusual moment.

Mid-conversation, he breaks away from her and runs onto the patio: “Is that the groundhog?” he asks.

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Linda is climbing the corporate rungs, but has become disillusioned with the company. Paxton is furloughed from his job as a delivery driver, but his boss has a side gig for him — something that will yield cash.

Through a convoluted twist of something, pandemic timing, their jobs collide in an opportunity to perhaps, maybe, conduct a good, old-fashioned heist in a very satisfying way.

They plot on a desk-sized calendar, another of the movie’s nods to pandemic life that is so right on. What, in 2020, is a calendar for — if not scratch paper.

Related Topics: MOVIES
Christa Lawler is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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