February 8, 2021

SCREEN | 'Breaking News in Yuba County' Finds Tabloid Crime

"Your vagina killed my husband."
Allison Janney Mila Kunis Regina Hall Tate Taylor | Breaking News in Yuba County
American International Pictures / VVS Films
Director Tate Taylor tries to channel the specificity of the Coen brothers' familiar charm in Breaking News in Yuba County, an interlinked dark comedy about various townspeople intermingled with small-time criminals focused on a put-upon housewife in crisis. Despite the folksy appeal Taylor is going for, his film is surprisingly violent in how it tries to satirize chasing fame and notoriety through tabloid media.

Starring Allison Janney as the self-help obsessed Sue on her forgotten birthday, her unhinged character finally gets the attention in life she's been seeking when her husband (Matthew Modine) goes "missing". Her small-town reporter half-sister Mila Kunis makes the story go big locally just as a suspicious cop (Regina Hall) tries to solve the strange events surrounding the disappearance. Meanwhile, Awkwafina and Clifton Collins Jr. as the actual scary criminals of the story wreak havoc trying to figure out what exactly happened to their stolen money.

Screenwriter Amanda Idoko barrels forward with all the usual misunderstandings and mishaps on the film's way to a haphazardly overstuffed ninety-six minutes with far too many characters—almost all of whom are played by famous comedic faces. There's a lot to like about the nature of the comedy's inherent appeal but where it goes never feels cohesive or particularly sharp in its dark humour.

What makes Breaking News in Yuba County at all charming is its stacked ensemble cast. The thin material and twisty plot mechanics only ever go so far on their own and never fully service the talented stars involved. Its critique of media culture never cuts deep beyond the surface-level veneer it's trying to satirize. There's both a lot superficially and not very much actually going on.

Breaking News in Yuba County is available to stream on various digital platforms and through video on demand starting February 12th.


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