Sometimes a role just feels off when watching a movie. Maybe the character is meant to be completely eccentric. Maybe the actor is having some fun and going extra for the hell of it. Sometimes it’s just Ezra Miller in writer/director Eamon O’Rourke’s ASKING FOR IT. Miller plays Mark Vanderhill, a radical masochist who leads the Men’s First Movement or MFM (Craigslist, anyone?). The movement is based on alpha males getting together to gain back their masculinity and place women into old-school submissive roles in society. Miller is a talented actor no doubt, but here they feel like a couple of days were open in their schedule and squeezed in script pages to get their name on the poster. They have been praised in multiple roles but hit the Hollywood jackpot in the last few years by being a part of the DC Cinematic Universe as The Flash. The character lacks any backstory and serves as a cartoonish villain against equally radical feminists.
A waitress named Joey (Kiersey Clemons) lives with her grandparents when she wakes up one night realizing she was drugged and raped by a supposed friend. This leads to PTSD and it’s not hidden from those around her. One of her regular customers, Regina (Alexandra Shipp) notices the change in her behavior. Regina takes Joey out where she is introduced to the Cherry Bombers, an all-female gang who force the shady men in town to face violent consequences. While their intentions are to protect abused women, Joey questions the morality behind what they do and just how far this gang will go to make their point known.
ASKING FOR IT has good intentions and strives to hit that cult straight to VOD mark, but it doesn’t quite make it. It’s too silly to be taken seriously and too serious to be silly. There are frequent jump cuts and name cards splattered onto the screen that actually takes one out of the viewing experience. It wants to be the movie version of a graphic novel when it probably would be badass if it were actually a graphic novel. Aside from Joey, most of the girls are given a one-sentence backstory and the actresses work off of that. Regina feels like the only one who Joey really clicks with. Therefore, becoming the only person we connect with. Vanessa Hudgens is completely underused as part of the gang without much more than a name in the credits to contribute.
There are other recognizable faces here like Gabourey Sidibe, Luke Hemsworth, and Radha Mitchell, but none of them are given any chance to leave a mark. ASKING FOR IT depends too much on its message of girl power and the strength of #metoo without actually finding the right execution. The “Stray Cat Rock” series from Japan proved to be an effective franchise, emphasizing girls who get together to fuck up the men who did them wrong. Those films had what ASKING FOR IT lacks – attitude.
While the attempt is admirable, ASKING FOR IT falls flat in achieving social cinema justice and leaves you only remembering Ezra Miller due to an awkward over-the-top performance.
ASKING FOR IT hits theaters, Digital, and VOD on March 4, 2022.