Unlovable centers around Joy, a love and sex addicted woman just trying to make it through the day. If you’ve ever watched Netlfix’s “Love,” she conjures memories of Micky and her self-destructive behavior. She battles against her insecurities and issues with self-worth, while ironically working as a kid’s show character who sings about self-love. She dates Ben (Paul James) and cheats on him routinely at a local bar. Each night is filled with flirtatious advances and endless alcohol consumption and always ends with a Joy waking up with at least one partner she cannot remember from the night before.
Boyfriend Ben ultimately dumps her and accuses her of using her addiction as a convenient excuse to cheat, she seeks help at her former SLA group meetings. There, she meets Maddie (Melissa Leo), who reluctantly accepts to sponsor her and details strict guidelines to follow. Joy meets Jim (John Hawkes), Maddie’s brother, and strikes a friendship over their makeshift band.
“…Ben ultimately dumps her and accuses her of using her addiction as a convenient excuse to cheat…”
Joy’s addiction is one that has always been swept under the rug, and yet, still affects a large percentage of the world. Everyone wants to love, and everyone wants to share intimacy with someone, but the addiction occurs when it’s all you can think of and seems like your world is ending at the thought of being alone and unloved. The character of Joy embodies that description, and deGuzman’s performance was so perfectly nuanced and reserved, it almost seemed like she wasn’t acting at all, but rather telling a familiar story. Joy held delusions of unworthiness and acted impulsively when her triggers were set off, and deGuzman shined brightly in every scene those moments occurred.
John Hawkes as Jim was simply a masterclass in acting, as he formed Jim into a rounded, damaged but still nearly operable, man gripping onto the few things that still brought him joy. Jim’s hidden sadness disguised by his blunt and cold reactions to anyone around him was a joy to see.
“…laid everything out on the line, and bared its heart and anyone suffering from any form of addiction…”
Unbeknownst to them, Joy and Jim battled their personal inner demons as they practiced and performed music as a form of therapy. Each song was written with lyrics quietly opining on their issues and what keeps them feeling the way they do. Hawkes and deGuzman’s mini concerts were almost always scene-stealing and provided so much more introspection on the characters flaws and helplessness when compared to thought out dialogue. How the writers figured the balance between the dialogue and music, is still lost upon me, but they pulled it off. Now, all I can think about is owning the cassette tape and listening to all the songs on repeat.
Unlovable laid everything out on the line, and bared its heart and anyone suffering from any form of addiction can find something in its words. Films like this are few and far between, but the sooner we realize it’s okay not to be okay, the better.
Unlovable (2018) Directed by Suzi Yoonesi. Written by Charlene deGuzman, Sarah Adina Smith, Mark Duplass. Starring Charlene deGuzman, John Hawkes, Melissa Leo.
9 out of 10