The idea of a COVID comedy might well make you cringe right now. After all, how can this time of pandemic, death, and dangerously stupid anti-maskers be funny when we’re still stuck in the hell of it? By centering it on a bond that can survive everything from lockdown drama to road trip chaos and random rollerblading creepers, which is precisely what Recovery does.
Recovery’s story sounds like one that could be strained with dread: While America is in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, two sisters take a cross-country road trip to spring their beloved grandmother from a nursing home that’s besieged by an outbreak. Yet this clever comedy manages to keep things not just light but lively, focusing on the incredible talents of Whitney Call and Mallory Everton. The two, who have been friends since childhood, co-wrote and co-star in this hilarious film, which is helmed by Everton and Stephen Meek (who is Call’s husband). From years and years of playing the fool before a VHS camera, this delightful duo shares a sensational chemistry and collaborative comedy that dazzles like firecrackers. Their real-life intimacy shines so brightly that no matter what Recovery’s silly sisters get into, we trust they’ll come through OK and sparkling. Thus, they offer the audience exhilarating hope by focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel, instead of the markers of darkness along the way.
Recovery starts off strong with a winking wit. Music blares at a bouncing birthday party for Jamie (Call), who is celebrating her 30th year! Things are looking up for her at work, where her fourth-graders love the mice she’s brought in as class pets. Her sister Blake (Everton) is crushing it too, having just enjoyed an awesome first date with a promising Tinder guy. Surely, this will be the year they travel, thrive, and live their best lives. “And Tom Hanks is healthy!” Jamie chirps, just driving that pre-pandemic moment home so hard, you might gasp even as you giggle.
Smash cut to late March 2020. Jamie and Blake are in lockdown, wearing masks and plastic gloves for supply runs, then decontaminating with sprays of Febreze and bagging all exposed clothes before safety showers. The classroom mice are their pets now. Blake’s been ghosted by her Tinder beau, and the most exciting part of their day is getting impulse buys delivered. Then, they get the call from their grandma. She is trying to isolate, but the staff is overwhelmed and she is being pestered by the nursing home Lothario, who was an STI health risk before he was a COVID one! So, Jamie and Blake pile into a beater of a car, packing snacks, sanitary wipes, masks, and everything they need to avoid hotels, public restrooms, and potentially plagued pit stops. However, while racing from Albuquerque to Washington state, they can’t predict the pitfalls of surprise d*ck pics, deranged detours, and a face-palmingly obtuse older sister who decided NOW was the perfect time to go on a cruise. (The tickets were so cheap!)
Like any road trip comedy worth its mileage, Recovery rolls out scenic backdrops, kooky characters, wacky complications, and the requisite sing-along-to-the-radio scene. But, when you’re shooting an indie on a shoestring budget, you can’t afford to be blasting Top 40 hits or Golden Oldies. Instead, Call and Everton offer a smirking montage where their sisters sing a selection of songs that are more-or-less parodies of the kind of things you expect comedy heroes to bop along to. Whatever the tune, whatever its style, they know every word and commit with relish, making the gag not only brilliant but warmly inviting.
It’s irreverently funny to see the paranoia and panic of COVID pushed to the comedy extremes of a literal nightmare scenario of spit, hand sanitizer baptism, and tombstones as punchlines. There are plenty of gags pulled from Blake’s frustration over the one who got away (or who might be a f*ckboi better left on read). Yet the best part of Recovery is that Everton and Call created two best buds you really want to hang out with. Like Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar, Recovery offers audiences a glowing and goofy example of female friendship and how it can get us through truly bizarre times. While this little gem doesn’t have the budget or the big stars of the other films, it still shimmers thanks to the remarkable comedic timing, crackling connection, observational humor, warmth, and moxie of Everton and Call. That they were able to do all of this while aptly capturing the big fears and petty frustrations of the pandemic—during the pandemic!—makes Recovery feel like a miracle.
Recovery made its World Premiere at SXSW Online 2021.
Header Image Source: SXSW