When You Finish Saving The World comes close enough to highlighting how easily isolated entrepreneurs get full of themselves that it’s worth watching more for the premise than the presentation.
Published on January 26, 2023
Rating 3 /5
There’s a sobering nature to how When You Finish Saving The World targets the narcissism of the white liberal who tries and fails to do good in the world. It doesn’t go perhaps as far as it should, considering their decayed sense of the world is only mildly addressed by those whose lives they affect. That being said, it’s satisfying to watch this fall from grace and the emotional realization that comes from a family too busy to think of each other.
The Katz family is composed of faux do-gooders. The matriarch, Evelyn (Julianne Moore), runs a women’s survival shelter. The son, Ziggy (Finn Wolfhard), runs a streaming channel where he composes music for a large follower base. The husband, Roger (Jay O. Sanders), is so ignored by both of them that his work is hardly focused on. The relationship between Evelyn and Ziggy has strained to the point where they connect on almost nothing. Evelyn grows bitter about her son’s obsession with making online music, and Ziggy can’t stand her taste in classical music.
Both have their views challenged when they seek kinship with other people. Evelyn tries to form a bond with Kyle (Billy Bryk), the teenage son of a recent victim at the shelter. Ziggy finds himself attracted to Lila (Alisha Boe), a politically active girl who cares deeply about matters that Ziggy only knows through background noise. The problem is that these two egotists don’t know how to connect with others beyond the charity they believe they’re offering. This leads to such awkward moments as Evelyn getting too close to Kyle by buying him meals and Ziggy trying to impress Lila with his alliance stance for everything she stands for.
The film is a tad frustrating, considering how the film treats the Katz family with kid gloves when called out. The satire becomes troublesome in how it stages the mother and son to be oblivious to such apparent moments of egotism that would instantly turn people off. While it is believable that a politically-bereft teen like Ziggy wouldn’t be able to recognize the hypocrisy in his left-wing political songs being blatantly used for fame and money. But to have him blatantly tell Lila with a smile that he’s happy to sing political songs, make lots of money, and get lots of social media engagement to do a stable business for himself is such a strange moment. It also makes these central characters more cartoonish in their narcissism, which is easy to spot and condemn. Furthermore, it gives their targets an easy out to walk away from rather than a challenge to their worldview.
When You Finish Saving The World comes close enough to highlighting how easily isolated entrepreneurs get full of themselves that it’s worth watching more for the premise than the presentation. The performances are surprisingly on point, with Moore and Wolfhard proving they still got the right stuff, even for dramedies like this. And while it is satisfying to watch a stuck-up YouTuber get a lashing for performative politics and a stuffy women’s shelter manager have her isolation-replacement challenged, there’s still a thirst to see these characters fall further. At any rate, the film does feature Wolfhard being surprisingly great with the guitar and singing that it’s enough to get me excited to see what types of films he could be suited for next.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.