Like Rodney Dangerfield, Sue Buttons (Alison Janney) gets no respect. In the new dark comedy “Breaking News in Yuba County,” now available on VOD, she discovers that with respect and unwanted attention comer hand in hand.
A help-desk operator, Sue is verbally abused by random callers, her half-sister Nancy (Mila Kunis) doesn’t remember her birthday and even shopkeepers talk down to her. “You’re important. You’re strong. You matter,” she says into the mirror, despite all the evidence to the contrary. When her husband Karl (Matthew Modine), who has been laundering money for crime boss Mina (Awkwafina), goes missing after a tryst with his mistress (on Sue’s birthday no less), people begin to take notice of Sue. Elevated to local celebrity status, Sue weaves a web of lies to keep policewoman (Regina Hall), deadbeat brother-in-law (Jimmi Simpson) and reporter Nancy from discovering what really happened to Karl.
“Breaking News in Yuba County” is part suburban satire, part character study. As a satire it aims to peel back the soft underbelly of big box stores, small town attitudes and middle-age angst.
As a character study, it follows Sue as she blossoms from wallflower into the anxious center of attention.
In a well-oiled machine, these two elements would sit comfortably side-by-side but here the satire doesn’t cut and the characters don’t compel.
The performances, particularly from Janney, tap every ounce of interest from the script, but the underwritten story from Amanda Idoko doesn’t dig deep enough for the satire. Mean spirited instead of insightful, it attempts the kind of juggling act Joel and Ethan Coen perform in films like “Fargo,” where crime, character and satire blend to unveil a more universal truth. Here, Sue’s search for acknowledgement and fame is as uninspired as her oft-repeated mantra, “You’re important. You’re strong. You matter.”