Karen is such a lazily written thriller about an infamous stereotype that you’ll get more entertained by the internet stories that made it popular.
A young black couple moves into a predominantly white neighborhood in Harvey Hill, a suburb in Atlanta. Imani (Jasmine Burke) and Malik (Cory Hardrict) find themselves living next to Karen Drexler (Taryn Manning). After a strange but mostly civil encounter with their neighbor, the couple focuses on settling in and starting a family.
As the movie progresses, it becomes obvious that the script of this movie neither has the creativity nor critical thinking to make the most of its subject. Karen doesn’t have the subtlety or nuance to either be a kitschy thriller or an incisive social commentary.
Harvey Hill Plantation is named after a confederate general and plantations. The Karen here is also named Karen, who is of course the president of the homeowners association. And yes, she has a brother who’s a racist cop.
Karen Drexler is a mustache-twirling villain who wakes up each day and chooses to be a menace. The plot is just stories we’ve all heard of from the internet about real-life Karens, amped up with aggressive villainy.
She pops out of nowhere whenever Malik lingers in front of his house to accuse him of something, says something racist at every opportunity, and stands menacingly staring into space like a deranged lunatic.
In one scene, Karen guilts Imani into inviting her to a housewarming party. Upon arriving, she makes her way into the kitchen and goes, “There she is, slaving away in the kitchen!” to the host. Later on, she defends her actions and says “Bottom line you guys, if you don’t like it here, go back…to Africa”.
As a result, there are no surprises and suspense. You know that it’s just a matter of time before Karen goes completely insane and kills someone.
Taryn Manning (wearing a cheap wig instead of an asymmetrical haircut), who supports the ultimate Karen, plays this one-note character like a walking meme. Outside social media, the existence of real-life Karen is not as black and white as this fiction Karen who keeps a soap dispenser decorated with a confederate flag.
The tyranny of Karen is not a new phenomenon. In fact, the Mythology of Karen has existed way before it received a moniker. The name also gets thrown around so much that it has become a go-to insult for every woman who complains, becoming a convenient cover-up for sexism.
You can expect neither entertainment nor insight from Karen.
The movie ends with a cheesy happy ending that resembles more of an ad for a progressive America. The audience is supposed to feel good for Karen’s victims, but nothing in this movie is believable enough to care about.
Karen is a lazily written movie that's more ridiculous than real-life Karen, wasting the narrative potential of an infamous stereotype.