Photo: Factory 25
Before We Vanish by Justin Stewart Film

Jobe’z World | Michael M. Bilandic

February 14, 2019

Before Jobe’z World establishes itself as a new, classic New York night movie, it’s already up in the cosmos: the refracted neon twinkle and burbling ambient churn of the pretty opening credits segues into spacey images of “bonkers shit…constellations…nothingness, sub-nothingness, the infinite void,” or so says voiceover by Jobe (Jason Grisell), a bleach-blonde, nocturnal, rollerblading ecstasy dealer. Jobe prefers the chill vibe of space to the “shrieking mayhem and abject suffering of earth,” so much so that he’s “making a sick manga about it” (the title of which is later revealed to be: Celestial Steven: Space Raver). By the time a yin-yang symbol spirals out of the cosmic slop (a superimposition effect reused later with a character’s disembodied face), it’s already clear that New York-based writer-director Michael M. Bilandic isn’t being wholly serious — yet his After Hours-ish comedy, which takes place over a single night, is laced throughout with grace notes of anxious melancholy, world-weariness and great beauty, aided by expert performances, as well as Sean Price Williams’s and Paul Grimstad’s excellent cinematography and music, respectively. Bilandic’s film is also exciting: When Jobe is tasked by his fearsome boss Linda (Lindsay Burdge) with delivering a potent packet “worse than what killed MJ and Prince put together” to his favorite actor, Royce David Leslie (Theodore Bouloukos), the worst happens and Jobe becomes a persecuted man in the mold of his Biblical namesake.

As in 2013’s stellar Hellaware, Bilandic’s subtle but funny writing is in perfect harmony with his cast, who toss-off golden line reads like: “Living my bleak-ass life… Lake Wobegon,” quipped by Jobe’s stand-up comedian customer, Zane (Owen Kline, who also drew the manga art); “waiting for a bite” fishing for “East River walleye,” and Williams as Linda’s boyfriend, who diminishes Jobe as “bladeboy” and rudely flings his manga with hilarious nonchalance. Some of the best gags are stuffed into small corners of the frame, like one particularly funny YouTube “reaction video” thumbnail. The stage-trained Bouloukos adds actorly heft, his turn here already justifiably the subject of critic encomiums. Grisell’s Jobe is just as good, his acid-casualty boyishness an oddly calming constant throughout. He’s tensely coiled, stressed about work, and having to pick up his mother at JFK, but he’s still the sanity-anchoring presence in scenes like, say, the one with a shouting, basement-dwelling weapon nut customer (Stephen Payne). Even at under 70 minutes, Jobe’z World feels like a full journey, and near the end, when Jobe rips off a wig, gazes into a sunrise with born-again wonder, and blades away, trenchcoat flapping, Bilandic even flirts with the iconic.

Published as part of Before We Vanish | Issue 1.