(director/writer: Janicza Bravo; screenwriter: Brett Gelman; cinematographer: Jason McCormick; editor: Joi McMillon; music: Heather Christian; cast: Brett Gelman (Isaac), Judy Greer (Ramona), Inger Tudor (African Woman), Nia Long(Cleo), Michael Cera (Alex), Shiri Appleby (Ruthie), Gillian Jacobs (Tracy), Jon Daly (Toby), Martin Star (Adam), Megan Mullally (Simone), Jeff Garlin (Guy Roach), Elizabeth De Razzo (Rosa), Fred Melamed (Howard), Rhea Perlman (Esther), Ashley Silverman (Becca), David Paymer (Dr. Gold); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Paul Bernon, Sam Slater, David Bernon, Houston King, Han West; Magnolia; 2015)
“Sour comedy-drama about a creep.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The debut feature of Janicza Bravo (director of TV and short films) is this weirdo low-budget sour comedy-drama about a creep. It’s co-written by Bravo and husband Brett Gelman, who also stars in it.
The blind girlfriend, Ramona (Judy Greer), of 10 years, of her Los Angeles actor husband Isaac (Brett Gelman) suddenly leaves him. Also, he’s stressed out while teaching an acting class at a storefront on Chekhov by the negative interactions between teacher and pupils. The conceited ass-hole star pupil Alex (Michael Cera) leaves him to be in a film in Denmark and Alex’s costar at the workshop Tracy (Gillian Jacobs), disappoints both her teacher and leading man who both treat her in a misogynistic bullying way. Brett goes through the entire film acting in a negative way, no matter what he does. At a family Passover Seder he goes bonkers dealing with his dysfunctional family.
The film’s highlight scene is a Passover sing-a-long to “A Million Matzoh Balls,” that has the pregnant charactor played by Shiri Appleby dancing like a whirling dervish to the music. In an attempt to get himself on the right course, Isaac tries to get some soul by dating an angelic Jamaican-American make-up artist, Cleo (Nia Long). During an afternoon barbecue with her family, things go absurdly wrong for the raggedly bearded depressed man and he’s back to starting over.
The awkward comedy is built around dumb jokes about auditions, talent agents and overbearing Jewish relatives. The humor emerges from moments of dire anxiety and embarrassment, and Gelman going all out bizarre in carrying out his role as a loser. Its best gags make you cringe with shame for laughing at such vulgarity. Yet this is more a conventional sitcom than a far-out venture in the bizarre. I’m sure there’s an audience for such a gross comedy, but I’m not part of that audience.
REVIEWED ON 11/15/2017 GRADE: C https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/