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‘Stress Positions’ Trailer: John Early Has a COVID Breakdown in a Brilliantly Anxious New York Comedy

Everyone is falling apart in “Stress Positions,” the Sundance premiere now opening in U.S. theaters from Neon on April 19.

The anxiety-inducing comedy directed by Theda Hammel, which she co-wrote with Faheem Ali, centers on a cluster of Brooklyn-dwelling New Yorkers spiraling during the first COVID summer of 2020 and also reeling from their own hang-ups, breakdowns, and break-ups. There’s Terry (John Early), a politically numbed basket case in the midst of a divorce, now spinning his wheels in the Brooklyn brownstone owned by the husband who’s left him. There’s his Moroccan nephew Bahlul (Qaher Harhash), a beautiful model badly injured with a broken leg and convalescing at said brownstone, with nowhere else to go and identity questions of his own. Then there’s Terry’s best friend, Karla (also played by director Hammel), a trans massage therapist in a shitty relationship with a writer (Amy Zimmer), reaping her partner’s spoils from a novel that exploited Karla’s life story.

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There are others who come and go, including a Grubhub courier played by co-writer Ali. But ultimately, all their lives collide across a few days that are, indeed, stressed.

Watch the trailer for “Stress Positions” below. IndieWire reviewed the film quite positively out of Sundance — Hammel’s movie “asks you to relive the scary days of sheltering in place, banging pots and pans in solidarity with health care workers, and social distancing whenever it was convenient or made you look like you stood for something.”

John Early is hilarious and worry-addled in this spiraling comedy as a gay divorcee, coming off his HBO stand-up special “John Early: Now More Than Ever” and his collaborations with comedian and friend Kate Berlant, and appearances on TV series like “Search Party,” “The Afterparty,” and “Life & Beth.” The rest of the cast is also great, including Hammel herself, whose character when asked why she transitioned, hilariously replies, “I wanted to kill myself, and this helped.” It’s the sort of morbid deadpan response this film nails.

Neon, meanwhile, has a slew of other movies coming up this year, from Alice Rohrwacher’s “La Chimera” out March 29, to the horror films “Cuckoo,” starring Hunter Schafer, and “Longlegs,” starring Nicolas Cage and Marika Monroe, out in 2024.

“Stress Positions” opens from Neon exclusively in New York on April 19 and expands to Los Angeles and other cities on April 26.

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