Jake Johnson’s directorial debut, Self Reliance, is here, but some might misinterpret its ending.
The Hulu movie follows Johnson’s Tommy Walcott, a struggling middle-aged man stumbling through life. He doesn't have a very strong career path, and he’s still not over his ex, who recently broke up with him, and he lives with his mom.
His life gets an injection of excitement when Tommy is picked up by actor Andy Samberg, who tells him that he’s been chosen to participate in a new game. It's later revealed the competition, which is hosted on the Dark Web, requires Tommy to stay alive for 30 days, and if he does, he wins one million dollars.
The catch is that there will be hunters, also known as hitmen, actively trying to kill him throughout the month.
There’s one loophole: as long as Tommy is with someone, these hunters can't hurt him.
Tommy’s Journey in Self Reliance Movie
Right off the bat, nobody close to Jake Johnson’s Tommy takes his claims seriously. This leads him to make friends he wouldn't normally have.
The first is Biff Wiff’s loyal homeless man James, who stays by Tommy’s side for nearly all of the movie. He’s only taken away for the last stretch of the game because audiences were getting bored.
He also gets a break when Tommy meets Anna Kendrick’s Maddy, someone else who claims to be playing the game.
The two kick it off and start to develop a real bond. She even helps Tommy get over his former ex and her new baby.
Sadly, their dynamic is put on pause when Maddy admits she was never part of the game. She was simply just lonely, and all she wanted to do was to spend more time with people.
Along the way, thanks to the Dark Web’s game, Tommy even gets to have some closure with his long-absent father in a limo before tackling the final stretch of the competition.
The Ending of Self Reliance Explained
Before the game ends, Tommy finds his way into another limo, reuniting with Andy Samberg. The celebrity offers him a chance to be done with the game and be driven home safely or to keep going and try to survive for the prize money.
Tommy chooses to see his journey through, and after one more night of being chased around by a cowboy, a sumo wrestler, and more, his time runs out—he’s alive as thirty days is up.
It turns out the game is real, and he’s its first survivor. Thanks to the prize money, Tommy’s even a little bit richer.
Sadly, he’s not quite a millionaire in the traditional sense—as the money he wins is given to him on Danish Krones. For those curious, one million Danish Krones equals around $146,800 USD.
Even after re-explaining everything to his family and bringing Wayne Brady along, they still seem dismissive. Despite that, Tommy seems happy with how everything works out.
The final shot of the movie sees Jake Johnson’s character go back over to Maddy’s to explain how everything worked out and to start over. While he knocks on her door, the audience doesn’t see if she ever answers.
Was the Game All In Tommy’s Head?
The big question many had throughout the day runtime of the movie was if this entire game was in Tommy’s imagination. After all, everyone around him seemed to think so.
The answer is no; it was very much a real thing. However, anyone wanting to interpret it as a big delusion could still get away with reading it that way.
It's not hard to understand why many would jump to that conclusion. Even Tommy himself admitted how sometimes his “brain makes stuff up.”
Then there are the strange choices he made in his youth, like claiming he was moving to Japan with his father to become a samurai or when he demanded everyone call him Michael Jackson. Needless to say, he can be pretty strange.
However, during an interview with Decider, director Jake Johnson clarified that "The way [they’ve] ended this movie, it seems very likely that it was real."
The director went on to share how they actually changed the ending to be less ambiguous and more clear after audience feedback.
Self Reliance is now streaming on Hulu.