Self Reliance Movie Review (2024)

Review: Jake Johnson’s Self Reliance has a lean 91 minute runtime, and the film doesn’t waste much time finding a rhythm. But unlike the movies that are clear inspirations for this one, Self Reliance doesn’t extend itself much beyond its premise.

jake johnson in self reliance film 2024
Jake Johnson in Self Reliance (2024)

Self Reliance Review

You’d expect nothing more than the cringy, nightmare fueled descent into madness that Jake Johnson delivers in his directorial debut Self Reliance, which also stars the New Girl mainstay and Spider-Verse voice actor as a disillusioned man named Tommy, who receives an invitation to play a dark web reality TV show game to win a million dollars.

And Jake Johnson seems perfectly in tune to make a movie like Self Reliance, which offers whiffs of the “reality vs. construction” motif that makes films like The Game and *insert Charlie Kaufman movie here* hum. But those movies are lauded for digging inside the human psyche, trying to offer a real statement on the human condition and break the confines of general moviegoing fodder.

I’m not quite sure Self Reliance is able to do that, but it is able to rely on genre elements and giddy performances for a worthwhile viewing experience. Jake Johnson is quite great in the central role, and the film never wavers outside of his own headspace. It’s entirely told from his point of view, and you have to believe his own understanding of his circumstances in order for the movie to work.

Alongside Tommy is Maddy (Anna Kendrick), who finds herself in a similar role to his. The two establish a kind of solace in one another, and the movie ultimately shifts to focusing on their ability to connect and better those around them – as well as moving on from trauma and heartbreak. Anna Kendrick reminds everyone (certainly myself included) how easily relatable she is as an actress, especially in a comedic role as outlandish and self-deprecating as this.

Self Reliance is a slight movie with a lean 91 minute runtime, and the film doesn’t waste much time finding a rhythm. But unlike the movies mentioned earlier that are clear inspirations for this one, Self Reliance doesn’t extend itself much. Besides being a fun, often entertaining, and goofy debut for Jake Johnson as a director, I can’t imagine it having much staying power for years to come. It’s hard for a movie like this to break through in the mainstream, and I think the only way Self Reliance is able to do that is with viewers recognizing the stars involved in it.

And the movie does feel like it overstays its welcome ever so slightly, even with the brief runtime. It isn’t as laugh out loud funny as I was initially hoping, and it doesn’t evolve much beyond its initial premise. But the movie does allow you to maneuver around inside of it, placing yourself in the protagonist’s shoes and playing along to imagine what you’d do in a scenario like this, but the actual events of the film are less exhilarating than I was hoping for.

Self Reliance is streaming on Hulu right now, and it feels like the perfect introduction to the streaming service’s offerings for 2024. They’re consistently promoting smaller-scale and light indie projects like this, and they’ve become an interesting “bargain bin” of new ideas and familiar faces that you’d like to spend a bit more time with. That’s certainly the case with Self Reliance, which is an enjoyable, harmless, and often well-staged debut from Jake Johnson.


Genre: Comedy, Thriller

Self Reliance (2024) is available to watch on Hulu

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Self Reliance Film Cast and Credits

self reliance movie 2024


Jake Johnson as Tommy

Anna Kendrick as Maddy

Andy Samberg as Self

Natalie Morales as Theresa

Mary Holland as Amy

Biff Wiff as James / Walter

Emily Hampshire as Mary

Nancy Lenehan as Laurie


Director: Jake Johnson

Writer: Jake Johnson

Cinematography: Adam Silver

Editor: Ryan Brown

Composer: Dan Romer

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Self Reliance on Letterboxd

Self Reliance on IMDb