On paper, Breaking News In Yuba County seems to have a lot going for it: a satirical script plucked from the Black List, an ensemble cast centred around Oscar-winner Allison Janney, and a director who has proven to be adept at handling both female-led tales of suburban life and ensembles. Instead, the result is a woefully over-stuffed and under-thought zany comedy misfire from Tate Taylor (The Help).
Sue Buttons (Janney) is having a very bad birthday. Not only have her self-absorbed half-sister (Mila Kunis) and her suicide hotline call centre co-workers forgotten her birthday, so too has her banker husband Karl (Matthew Modine). To add insult to injury, Karl has been having an affair while also money laundering for a crime boss.
It seems Karl has gotten in over his head with said crime boss thanks to his ex-con brother (Jimmi Simpson) and now has inept hit people (Awkwafina and Clifton Collins Jr.) after him. When Karl unexpectedly dies in possession of a sack full of money, Sue sees her chance to finally get the attention she has been missing by capturing the interest of the local TV talk show circuit.
While rehearsing her story about the “missing” Karl, Sue gets the attention of TV personality Gloria Michaels (Juliette Lewis) and Detective Cam Harris (Regina Hall)—both of whom start to think Sue’s story might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Somewhere within Breaking News In Yuba County, there is a good movie. In fact, a compelling story about a small-town cable TV obsessive and two daft criminals could easily follow in the footsteps of darkly comic greats To Die For and Fargo. Instead, the film fails in its misguided attempts at tone and humour, as well as its direction and just about everything else. Yuba County is set in the present day, but wouldn’t it have made far more sense to set the action in the early 1990s when TV talk shows were king?
Most notably, director Taylor seems at a loss about what story he’s trying to tell—much like his 2020 misfire, Ava. Taylor seems to forget this should be wacky and bloody fun. Instead, he weighs Yuba County down with too many flimsy storylines and characters.
Yuba County has all the marks of a movie that was produced years ago before being banished to a shelf in cinematic purgatory. Writer Amanda Idoko penned the script six years ago and it went on to become a part of the prestigious Black List of unmade features. But somewhere between her script and the finished product, something went awfully wrong. The result is an uneven mishmash of a film.
Queens of Comedy
Not to mention the film clearly has no idea how to use the stellar talents of its comedic cast. This otherwise A-list ensemble, which also includes Wanda Sykes and Ellen Barkin, is left to flounder from start to finish. They also seem to forget about Kunis completely until she randomly shows back up in the last half of the movie.
Despite all that, Janney still manages to standout. She squeezes everything she can out of the script and allows Sue to become the most fully-developed person in a story full of thin characters and even thinner motives.
Breaking News In Yuba County is available on-demand starting Feb. 12.