Disclaimer: I reviewed this film back in January for the Sundance Film Festival
Timely and hilarious, Carey Williams’ Emergency drops a poignant message into the “night from hell” college comedy to deliver one of the most pointed and funniest films of the year.
Donald Elise Watkins stars as straight-laced college student Kunle. Along with his laid-back roommate Sean (RJ Cyler) prepare for a legendary night of partying during spring break at college. Before heading out, they find a passed-out white girl (Maddie Nichols) on the floor of their house with their other roommate Carlos (Sebastian Chacon) oblivious in the other room. Afraid to call the police, the three men attempt to remedy the situation without looking down the barrel of a gun.
The “college kids have the night from hell” genre is well-worn, but this iteration is filled with new life. Characters feel real and the social/racial aspects are well incorporated. Sean is always aware of the optics while Kunle tries to balance it with logic. The film’s great trick: neither is wrong. There are solid reasons for both sides of the issue. The fear from systemic racism is palpable in the group without feeling preachy.
On the other side, when the girl’s sister Maddie (Sabrina Carpenter) begins to search for her and jumps to conclusions, this is also a correct reaction. They see a passed-out white girl and assume things are going sideways. Despite seemingly making every possible poor choice, every choice across the film is backed up with a logical reasoning.
Watkins keeps everything grounded while also pushing against the expectations of what this character could be. Kunle might be the straight-laced overachiever, but he still wants to party and get laid, like a normal college student. Watkins makes him easy to root for. Cyler is all bravado and exuberance, but he is also acutely aware of the potential dangers in everything they do. It’s not as simple as “one is straight-laced, the other is a wild card.” This film lives in the grey areas.
Chacon is the sensitive, yet funny third wheel, while Carpenter excels as the overly-woke white girl that everyone has met before. There is even some smart commentary on the levels of ethnicity between people as Carlos and his cousin differentiate in skin tone.
Emergency constantly delivers laughs as well, despite the serious subject matter. Williams delivers a memorable and highly watchable night with a strong message built-in.
Emergency releases in theaters on May 20th and streams on Amazon Prime on May 27th
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