tue 18/06/2024

Sick of Myself review - queasy black comedy about self-obsessed youth | reviews, news & interviews

Sick of Myself review - queasy black comedy about self-obsessed youth

Sick of Myself review - queasy black comedy about self-obsessed youth

Shallow Norwegian social media satire leaves a bad taste

Totting up the 'likes': Kristine Kujath Thorp as self-mutilating Signe

Sick of Myself is being marketed as one of those oh so clever satirical comedies about privileged but fucked-up people. Think Worst Person in the World, Triangle of Sadness and The White Lotus and you’ll get the genre.

Set in Oslo and Gothenburg, it’s the story of 20-something Signe (Kristine Kujath Thorp) who works in a trendy coffee shop and feels side-lined by her installation artist boyfriend, Thomas. She’s also jealous of her friends who have more interesting jobs and craves respect from them and from Thomas. A cool art gallery has just put on an exhibition of his sculptures (created from designer furniture he’s stolen) and at the opening night party in a fancy restaurant Signe is ignored by the other guests until she stages a dramatic allergic reaction. 

Inspired by the attention that incident gets her, she reads about a new Russian medication (on what looks suspiciously like a mocked-up Daily Mail webpage) that has the side effect of making one’s skin break out in terrible disfiguring blisters. Signe covertly shovels down handfuls of the pills and turns herself into a freakish victim of a mysterious illness, revelling in the attention she garners from social and mainstream media.  

Soon she’s signed up with a disability-proud modelling agency and rivalling her boyfriend for clicks on social media. Prosthetic make up transforms Signe from an attractive young woman into a tragic monstrosity. Even as her grotesque appearance worsens – she resorts to wearing a mask that covers everything but her eyes and mouth – Thomas (Eirik Saether pictured below) sticks with her not out of compassion but because he sees an opportunity to piggyback on her fame.It’s hard to spend a whole movie with such a noxious couple, but at least the Norwegian director Kristoffer Borgli has some skills. He’s adept at sliding seamlessly between what's happening in Signe's life and her increasingly paranoid visions of being exposed as a fraud. And there are some sharp comic moments – particularly a sex scene where Signe gets turned on fantasising about her funeral.

Borgli seems to have set out to craft a stylish and satirical black comedy. According to Kristine Kujath Thorp, the script was inspired by a Danish woman who scammed thousands of followers with her Instagram account of her faked terminal cancer. Such con artists have always existed but the internet has given them a bigger profile. Seeking attention by playing the victim is a real phenomemenon. But Borgli appears oblivious to how patronising and implicitly dismissive Sick of Myself is of people who have actual disabilities. 

We glimpse two other women in the scenes involving Signe and the model agency (one has congenital hand anomalies; the other is blind). Neither woman is given any dialogue or even a name, they are just in the film as visual gags. All too often a scarred face is equated with movie villainy (examples include many James Bond baddies but Black Widow and Wonder Woman also gave facial scars to their wicked women). That association is recognised as corrosive to improving social acceptance of people with visible disabilities and should not go unchallenged.

It’s tedious to take a sanctimonious approach when reviewing a comedy, but as well as finding the film’s thoughtless deployment of visible disability pernicious, Sick of Myself feeds into the trope that people who self-harm do it purely to get attention. While the number of people struggling with mental illnesses that lead to devastating disorders like anorexia, cutting and self-mutilation continue to rise, it’s tricky to find much to laugh about in a film that encourages audiences to dismiss self-harm as simply idle narcisissm.

It feeds into the trope that people who self-harm do it purely to get attention


Editor Rating: 
Average: 1 (1 vote)

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