When it comes to comic actors, we always expect them to be funny all the time, even if successful ones like Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler don’t always hit that landing. Whenever these actors want to broaden their acting skills and try to do something “serious”, most mainstream audiences would look the other way. They want the comedy, despite brilliance from Carrey and Sandler, with films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Uncut Gems. With Lost Transmissions, has Simon Pegg – star of Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy – proven his skills as a dramatic actor?
Writer/director Katharine O’Brien’s feature debut centers on Hannah (Juno Temple), a shy songwriter who discovers that her friend, respected record producer Theo Ross (Simon Pegg), has lapsed on his medication for schizophrenia. Rallying a group of friends to help commit Theo to a psychiatric hospital, Hannah wrestles with her own mental struggles and finding her voice in the music industry.
Inspired by O’Brien’s own experiences with helping a friend through his mental troubles, there is an intentional uncomfortability in seeing Pegg’s Theo wrestling with his internal issues and how that affects everyone around him. One sequence in particular shows a dangerous side to his persona as he tries to prevent his friends from driving him to a hospital. This almost leads to a car accident. Theo also wrongly accuses someone of faking her current pregnancy. As one friend says to Theo, “whatever happened to the Theo that I know?” Given the unpleasant realism depicted on screen, the film serves as a critique about the inadequate methods of mental health professionals on how to treat an illness like schizophrenia.
As much as the drama is about the fears of someone you know becoming something you don’t recognize, you can say that Simon Pegg is acting on a level we haven’t seen before. Although he has played tragic comic roles before and there may be subtle moments of humor, Pegg delivers a heartbreaking performance. At times he can be antagonistic, but it’s in these scenes where his silence is dominant and the tragedy shines.
Pegg may be doing the showier role, but it is his co-star Juno Temple that stands out. Having proved herself as an indie queen throughout the last decade, Temple’s performance is the very anchor of this film as she’s virtually in every scene. What she nails is the stillness that she slowly breaks away throughout the narrative, which is about confronting your fears, internally and externally.
As for the film itself, it can be unfocused on both the screenplay and direction. In terms of the music industry in Los Angeles, there isn’t much said about, other than the non-sympathetic personas that dominate it, including Alexandra Daddario as the self-important pop star Dana Lee. There are times where the storytelling can just get lost in showcasing the glamour and grit of the city, leading to a number of multiple endings that take leaps in trying to achieve a happy resolution for everyone.