Take Me treads some of the same thematic ground as Fight Club, but with a considerably lighter touch.
In Take Me, the comic noir by actor/director Pat Healy, Ray Moody is a man frozen in time. He carries a flip phone, his laptop is bulky, his website might have cut an edge in 1997 but is now dull and lacking frills. But, like the wig on his head, Ray sees pasts these deficiencies through positive thinking and his unfaltering belief in his life’s work. Ray is an entrepreneur. Kidnapping people is his business.
His calling is not as nefarious as it sounds. Ray’s main concern is helping his clients get over addictions or any of the obstacles they’ve placed in their paths. Through consultation Ray designs scenarios where he abducts his clients, holds them for eight hours and performs various aversion therapies while they’re bound to a chair in his basement. The idea is to simulate all the fear and punishment of a real kidnapping with an end goal of quitting smoking or some other unhealthy habit. Some look for the kink but Ray prefers to focus on those seeking preventative and curative measures.
As played by Healy, Ray is a man so committed to his entrepreneurial vision that he is blind to all else. He maintains a positive veneer despite his crumbling circumstances. He lives in the house of his childhood in Glendale, CA, drives a crumbling white van that looked new in The Silence of the Lambs and subsists on loans from his brother-in-law. Affable and deeply committed to customer satisfaction, he has the intensity of young Martin Sheen and the demeanor of young Emilio Estevez. His inner monologue is the pitch he makes when applying for a loan. It’s the only thing that keeps him from cracking.
Because it must, a mysterious phone call at an opportune moment enters the story. A new client wants to be kidnapped for a whole weekend. She has a sultry voice and wants her kidnapper to slap her from time to time. She is willing to pay $5000 for Ray’s services even though he has strict rules against striking clients. Financial realities override his qualms. Ray takes the job, agreeing to abduct financial consultant Anna St. Blair (Taylor Schilling), a woman as blond and beautiful as any Hitchcockian femme fatale. But as the weekend commences and Anna’s denials persist, Ray wonders if he got the wrong woman and begins to suspect a double cross.
Co-produced by the Duplass brothers, the movie recalls the minimalism of their mumblecore roots. Most of the action takes place in Ray’s house between Ray and Anna, mostly in the basement. It is a refreshing lack of bloat. Watching Healy and Schilling trade barbs and continually exchange positions of power is a delight. Healy imbues Ray with affability and an endless reservoir of reasonableness that he uses every time he has to explain the nature of his business. Schilling makes Anna tough, vulnerable, intelligent and fearless. She swings from uncooperative prisoner to reluctant confidant when Anna and Ray find themselves embroiled in the mystery of who scheduled her abduction.
Take Me treads some of the same thematic ground as Fight Club, but with a considerably lighter touch. Ray is an extremely benign Tyler Durden who is trying to make people work through their fears in a heightened emotional circumstance. Why his clients are so moved when they know their kidnap is coming is a question the brisk pace of the movie leaves no time to consider. Playing with the conventions of film noir, screenwriter Mike Makowsky keeps things moving, focusing our attention on plot twists that call into question perceptions of reality. We all like to think we have agency in our stories, but how quickly do we devolve when circumstances move outside our control. Ray Moody has made it his life’s work to reconnect people to something primal and powerful within, but he is a broken man who hasn’t done the work himself. And life is not a pre-planned scenario.