Jesse Eisenberg is having a moment, what with Fleishman Is in Trouble—I’m already behind, what is time, and how do you manage it?—and his upcoming feature directorial debut, When You Finish Saving the World.
In 2020, Eisenberg wrote an audio drama of the same name about the Katz family at different points in their lives, and now he has turned that into a feature film that concentrates on the Katz family in one specific moment of their lives. The time jumps make sense in the audio drama, but I can easily see how unwieldy it would get in a film, so it was a good call on Eisenberg’s part to streamline the story and focus on Evelyn—called Rachel in the audio drama and voiced by Kaitlyn Dever—and her teenaged son, Ziggy, played by Finn Wolfhard in both versions. The trailer dropped the other day and yeah, Finn Wolfhard has playing a solipsistic teen down pat.
Julianne Moore plays his mother in this iteration, a woman who runs a shelter for domestic abuse survivors. World premiered at Sundance and played at TIFF, too, and it was mostly well received both places. The consistent comment is that the characters are unlikeable, which definitely comes through in the trailer. Ziggy is a typical teen whose parents don’t understand him, his mother is so divorced from his reality she doesn’t even know what “livestreaming” is. And Evelyn isn’t afraid to berate her son for being a teenager. “You stopped being interested in anything outside your own little world,” she says, as if that’s not what pretty much all teenagers do.
The downside of ditching the timey-wimey framework of the audio drama is we’re probably stuck with these people being particularly unpleasant without relief. The audio drama at least shows us the three central characters, Rachel, Ziggy, and Nathan, at different points in their lives. We can contrast “college student Rachel” with “Ziggy’s mom Rachel” and understand how things worked out, and how she went from A to B. The movie isn’t going to use that same framing, though, so I really hope watching Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard be a contentious parent-child duo is rewarding in and of itself. I’m not as big on the audio drama as some (it won an Audie Award for Original Work in 2021), but I am curious to see how Eisenberg translates as a director. His taste as an actor runs to the navel gaze-y and/or vaguely sociopathic, and this trailer is giving strong navel gaze vibes. Which then begs the question, what would the vaguely sociopathic Jesse Eisenberg movie look like?
Attached - Julianne out in New York the other day.