January 13, 2018 – I was warned about this movie before watching it, so I was not expecting much. In fact, it is not as bad as I was led to believe. This is a movie that made me feel uncomfortable when I watched it, primarily because every single conversation in the film is awkward.
The film opens with a couple asleep on a couch in front of a television. After waking up they end up sniffing the man's clothing, presumably to detect the smell of some nocturnal emission of bodily fluid. This is just one of many awkward moments in the film.
The man with the embarrassing wetness and smell is Isaac (played by Brett Gelman of “The Other Guys”). His girlfriend, Ramona (Judy Greer of “Ant-Man” who is blind, is the other person on the couch. Ramona travels a lot in her job, while Isaac, who very seldom changes his dull expression, or shows emotion, is an actor who teaches acting.
Isaac's star pupil in acting class is Alex (Michael Cera of “This Is the End”). Alex is clearly the teacher's pet. Isaac fawns all over Alex, while being overly critical of others on stage. Somehow this is considered normal and he gets away with it.
Ramona is interested in breaking up with Isaac and moving on with her life. Isaac suspects Ramona is seeing another man when he overhears something suspicious during a phone conversation with her. Isaac starts looking for a new girlfriend, or perhaps a boyfriend, it is not clear which.
He starts dating Cleo (Nia Long of “Keanu”). For some unfathomable reason, Cleo agrees to another date after the first one. Maybe she's desperate. Isaac is not exactly a conversationalist. He either drones on about boring, impersonal facts, or blurts out some random, loud, disconcerting complaint about the unfairness of life which erupts from deep inside his lonely soul.
Cleo accompanies Isaac to his family's Passover Seder at his parent's home (Isaac's mother is played by Reah Pearlman of “I'll See You in My Dreams”). The awkward conversations around the table shows where Isaac gets his dysfunctional, tone deaf conversational problems from. It ends with the family, including an expressionless Isaac, singing a rollicking song, “A Million Matzoh Balls.”
At a family gathering of Cleo's Haitian relatives, Isaac tries to make conversation by droning on about statistics which have something to do with racism. The gathering ends up in truly bizarre fashion. In yet another awkward meeting, he tries an intimate hug on his student, Alex. This ends up in a wrestling match with Alex desperately trying to escape the hug. Alex later threatens to call the police.
While Isaac is a social outlier, I suspect he is not an altogether unfamiliar figure. I suspect many people see something in themselves in Isaac, or they know people who share some of Isaac's traits. He is awkward and subdued, perhaps closeted. He is lonely and wants companionship, but doesn't have the social skills or the temperament to form a lasting relationship.
The whole film is awkward and stiff. The conversations come across as fake. Funny things happen in the film, but they don't really seem funny because of the way they are packaged with anger, loneliness, jealousy and even racism. Rather than being funny, it is a toxic emotional cocktail. This film rates a C.
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