Throughout the first half of the ongoing pandemic, viewers flocked to the absurd for escape. Titles like Netflix’s Tiger King and Pop TV’s Schitt’s Creek provided audiences with outlets to disappear from their growingly mundane lives as they navigate life from isolation.
Now that the pandemic has crossed over into a new year, the medium has granted writers and filmmakers a newfound boost of creative ideas that actually reflect the world of today. In the coming months, more and more projects will spring to life rooted in the fever dream that has been COVID isolation. In February, Euphoria creator Sam Levinson will join forces with the comet Zendaya for Malcolm & Marie. This week, HBO Max made its first foray into the covid canon with the dramedy Locked Down.
The film stars Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Linda and Paxton, a now broken up couple stuck quarantined together in London. Linda, a successful CEO at a fashion company, feels she has evolved beyond Paxton and they no longer see their relationship from the same perspective. Paxton, an ex con who can only get jobs as a truck driver, is introduced as he spins out of control aimlessly through the halls of his, extremely nice, home.
The first chunk of the film is dedicated to unpacking the baggage of both parties as it spills exponentially rapidly. Linda grows weary of her soul sucking, capitalist job while Paxton continues to grow apathetic to the systems that led to his arguably wrongful imprisonment and later life altering record upon his release. The dialogue between the two is written like a play, with Hathaway reciting one too many monologues for the character to be truly likable. Though the talk themselves in circles akin to better, similarly written films like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the film is still interesting enough to pass.
What’s most interesting is, intentionally or not, the film actually mimics the experience of being locked down during Covid. There’s moments of relaxation where one can pause from the conveyor belted trajectory of corporate life, moments of terror when one discovers their true attitudes towards said businesses, and moments of pure banality or boredom that feel so endless they force erratic impulses.
Locked Down takes its biggest turn when it decides to become a heist film. The lead duo, at this point having gone slightly crazy, though in their minds enlightened, hatch a plan to steal a diamond from Harrods that will effectively make them both rich. The plot device is utilized to bring the duo back to their younger days in love and lust as they wildly rode motorcycles and drank recklessly, but its so tonally out of place with the rest of the film that, at best, feels jarring.
That said, the filmmakers were clearly having a lot of fun with this chaotically outlandish third act, not too seriously bringing the leads to an exciting climactic moment. So, like the covid pandemic itself, Locked Down has it’s moments. It’s at times frustrating, stupid and confusing, and at others exciting, hilarious, and exhilarating. Hathaway and Ejiofor give it their all, but the biggest takeaway will be how future films capitalize on a newly cemented genre of film reflecting life today.