Sundance Review: ‘Blindspotting’ Manages to Be Too Funny and Too Serious at Once

Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal appear in Blindspotting by Carlos López Estrada, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Sundance Film Festival: Oakland, California has never been as hilarious or as frightening as it is in the new film, “Blindspotting.”

Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal wrote and star in this odd buddy comedy. Collin (Diggs) is a young man just trying to get through the final days of his year-long probation. Collin spent time in prison, although the nature of the crime isn’t revealed until late in the film. The terms of his probation include meeting an 11:00 curfew at a halfway house, staying within the county limits, and maintaining gainful employment.

Collin’s gainful employment is at a moving company, where he partners with his lifelong best friend, Miles (Casal). The pair is goofy in that screwball comedy way, and they are good at it. Collin is more of the straight man in this duo, while Miles is the boisterous spectacle who always has an idea. Casal and Diggs have great comedic timing, making these scenes genuinely fun to watch.

And yet, “Blindspotting” isn’t exactly a pure comedy.

With three days to go on his probation, Collin gets stuck at a red light and witnesses a police shooting. That shooting will continue to haunt him through the rest of the film, coming back in disconnected flashes. This leads to some dramatic and intense scenes, too. And Casal and Diggs are good there, too.

The problem comes when the film tries to vacillate between both moods. The funny moments really are funny and the serious moments are well played. But with no transition from one to the other, the effect is jarring in a distracting way that pulls the audience out of the story.

Carlos López Estrada directs his first feature with “Blindspotting.” It is fine as a debut but lacks the polish and sophistication that might have made really made this story come together. Estrada brings a new voice to issues of racial inequality. He’s off to a good start.

“Blindspotting” also features great supporting performances from Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Tisha Campbell-Martin, and Ethan Embry.

“Blindspotting” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and is available for distribution.

GRADE: (★★★)