PFF SPRINGFEST – THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE
RILEY STEARNS | USA | ENGLISH | 2019 | 104 MIN
Gawky, socially awkward accountant Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) doesn’t fit the image of the virile American male, and he’s keenly aware of it. Alienated from his performatively macho coworkers and embarrassed by his gender-neutral name, Casey hits a breaking point when he’s violently attacked by a gang of masked bikers. Determined to stand up for himself by any means necessary, Casey joins a karate studio and falls under the sway of a virile, mysterious Sensei (Alessandro Nivola). Karate puts Casey in touch with his inner warrior, but it doesn’t take long for him to realize that this dojo is less Karate Kid and more Fight Club. Casey’s descent into this testosterone-fueled world makes for a ride that’s darkly hilarious, strange, and always surprising. With The Art of Self-Defense, writer/director Riley Stearns (PFF23’s Faults) has crafted a scathing critique of America’s obsession with violent displays of machismo, and Eisenberg is perfectly cast as a stereotypical dweeb whose obsession with masculinity takes him to absurd and frightening extremes.
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola, Imogen Poots, Steve Terada
Part of PFF SPRINGFEST April 12-14 at the Philadelphia Film Center
With PFF SpringFest, the Philadelphia Film Society presents a mid-year survey of the freshest cinematic marvels from the international festival circuit–from American indie darlings and eye-opening documentaries to acclaimed foreign titles. Browse the full program HERE.
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