REVIEW: Nancy, Please [2013]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: R | Runtime: 84 minutes | Release Date: May 24th, 2013 (USA)
Studio: Factory 25 / FilmBuff
Director(s): Andrew Semans
Writer(s): Will Heinrich & Andrew Semans

“I want you to be on my side”

We know we’ve reached the crucial moment of Andrew SemansNancy, Please when a distraught Paul (Will Rogers) finds himself at ex-roommate Nancy’s (Eleonore Hendricks) door in the hope his copy of Charles Dickens’ Little Dorsitt is on the other side. Panicked, paranoid, and needy in an emotionally damaged way, he has begun to believe two years of labor have been rendered moot at the eleventh hour because he forgot the book—who’s annotations are key to writing his graduate thesis—while moving out. A desperate return to his former home has become a necessity after a week goes by without help from Nancy to facilitate its retrieval. But when a fleeting glimpse at a reflection of movement through the glass jolts him forward to pop open the door, he slams it shut instead of walking in.

It’s a reaction that proves how mentally unstable Paul has become. Frightened for the same reasons we all hide behind while self-sabotaging ourselves, he cannot move forward. It isn’t enough to believe he has miraculously turned a corner in his research with those missing notes or to have found joy in his personal life by leaving Nancy behind to begin a new chapter with girlfriend Jen (Rebecca Lawrence Levy). With everything appearing to fall into place the realization that earning his doctorate will achieve an end to the safety net school has provided him before adulthood catalyzes a complete unraveling. Wondering whether he forgot the book on purpose becomes unavoidable as we hypothesize that he’s subconsciously preventing success. And rather than think clearly to conquer this extreme psychological block, he creates a monster.

Depression sets in as Paul’s state worsens to the point of Semans and cowriter Andrew Heinrich going “Tell-tale Heart” on us. Nervous ticks develop as the scratching of squirrels within his walls amplifies and his anger for Nancy—his self-anointed nemesis—grows blindingly fierce. Her cavalier attitude of pure ambivalence towards his plight eats away at him so much that Jen and best friend Charlie (Santino Fontana) readily fall in line with his delusions too. She is ruining his life for no reason other than spite, escalating an awkwardly tough situation to irrevocable levels of malice. She doesn’t call him back, pretends not to be home, and becomes defensive when confronted at her place of employment. For the first three-quarters of the film there’s no solution other than accepting Nancy is insane.

But that’s only until Paul’s sporadically ill-conceived actions reveal the truth by growing ever more dangerous. His quest for Little Dorsitt spirals out-of-control to risk his education, career, and relationship. Paranoia mutates into a psychotic break beyond anyone’s power to stop as this once promising Ph.D. candidate becomes a hollow shell concerned only with retribution. Nancy becomes evil without remorse, one deserving of his constant berating and chastisement. We’re exposed to Paul’s penchant for elaboration at the beginning courtesy of a story about the Indian origins to the concept of “zero”, but the depth of his lies isn’t seen until he constructs them for himself. Refusing to put the blame on his own shoulders, he can’t help but project every ounce of self-loathing onto the woman he’s conveniently let stand in his way.

What follows is an interesting psychological study on insecurity and mankind’s oft-inability to confidently take what it wants. Afraid to live up to the expectations put upon him, Paul retreats into a dark conspiracy fantasy. Valid gripes about Nancy’s inconsiderate nature snowball into vindictive embellishments as all the effort he should be expending on fulfilling his educational requirements turn to exposing her deceit. Conversations with Jen and Charlie exacerbate the situation by unceasingly revolving around the devilish woman holding his book for an invisible ransom until they cannot take it anymore. Paul gets so lost on his journey that the novel becomes an afterthought to needing implicit support from his loved ones. Too numb to feel any sympathy by this point, however, not even they can stand by his side in this current state.

Nancy, Please gives its audience a lot to chew on while waiting to see how everything plays out. Will Nancy prove to be the monster we’re told she is? Will Paul travel past the point of no return? Criminal activity rears its head as physical violence becomes involved to indecipherably blur the line between predator and prey. Rogers degenerates into a shadow of the former happy-go-lucky dude we met carrying furniture into his new house while Hendricks’ feral ferocity grows alongside a surprising amount of newfound empathy. And yet she isn’t an innocent in what transpires, her delicate temperament releasing into primal screams of terror skew towards malice despite her right for self-defense. Whether what we see is real or a manifestation of Paul’s warped mind, however, is up to you to decide.

Semans steeps this dance in suspense, leading us to an end we assume will be tragic for all involved in a bloody mess with fatal implications. Nancy and Paul both become so distorted by each other’s actions that the idea of murder proving instrumental in their final goodbye is always a possibility. In fact, whether physical death is the outcome or not proves a contentious topic since Semans and Heinrich’s story exists on a plane of emotional and mental interaction. To lose oneself psychologically can be just as devastating as a bullet if the process still dismantles all hope for the future. While using a gun may seem simpler, not everyone is fully conscious of his implosion. For them turning an unwitting yet game participant into their weapon of choice does just fine.

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