Lemon (2017) Dec 2, 2017 18:00:41 GMT -5 via mobile
Post by StevePulaski on Dec 2, 2017 18:00:41 GMT -5
Directed by: Janicza Bravo
Directed by: Janicza Bravo
Michael Cera and Brett Gelman.
Janicza Bravo's Lemon presents a cross between Adult Swim absurdity and Quentin Dupieux (Rubber, Wrong) weirdness that scarcely comes close to actual comedy. The ambition of Bravo and co-writer/lead actor Brett Gelman appears to be to make the audience as uneasy as possible, filling this unassuming work of anti-comedy to the brim with affectless performances, obtuse musical numbers, deadpan dialog, and tightly framed camera-shots. All of these forces culminate into one of the strangest and most insufferable films of the year.
In many ways, Lemon mirrors the work cringe-comedy masters Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim did in the later part of the last decade, which found itself a home on the TV show Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (an Adult Swim property). To compare it to a film, Lemon also resembles Rick Alverson and Heidecker's feature-length effort The Comedy, which I didn't find to be much fun either. This stilted, often uncomfortably cerebral brand of humor appeals to the night-owls who catch themselves up late enough to witness the real peculiarities of Cartoon Network's lineup. Their frequent laughing could be attributed to sleep-deprivation, perhaps, or maybe just a result of humor that I don't get from situations which, at the end of the day, are probably better off not being got in the first place.
The film is largely plotless, but its skeleton revolves around the growing instability and unraveling of Isaac Lachmann, played by Brett Gelman (Joshy), a balding actor in his mid-thirties, who lives in L.A. with his blind girlfriend Ramona (Judy Greer). Shortly after the film begins, Ramona leaves Isaac, making him even more astray in life as he tries desperately to get an acting role that fits his wheelhouse. His friend Alex (Michael Cera, a mainstay of these absurdist works) is growing more weary of his antics day after day, and Isaac's awkward energy and detachment to the world around him contributes to his alienation. Things perk up a bit — as do the weirder tendencies of the film — when Isaac begins seeing Cleo, played by Nia Long of all people, a vivacious woman who stays close to Isaac despite his racially charged statements that are presumably supposed to lampoon millennial liberals.
Like many failed comedies, Lemon has moments of marginally amusing, half-hearted inspiration when its comedy catches up to the idea that it's supposed to be somewhat funny. There's a gaggle of chuckle-inducing moments, including a musical number that has an ensemble sing a song called "A Million Matzo Balls;" I'm not sure if that's a standard ballad, but I think I'll go forward not knowing. Furthermore, Gelman's uncomfortable remarks in the face of Cleo sometimes prompt laughs, not because they're particularly strong humor, but they are the most evident jokes in a film that finds humor in a man dropping his cell-phone in the toilet after defecating, which leads him to discover his water has been shut off. Speaking of which, Heidecker and Wareheim's feature-film of Tim and Eric also had a big sequence that involved intense defecation. I didn't laugh then either.
Lemon plays like a parody of mumblecore movies (The Puffy Chair, Beeswax, Funny Ha Ha) and the very-real stereotype of struggling L.A. hipsters. However, its grating attempt at anti-humor and plodding pointlessness shift it into a similar realm as the parody films of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, not because it's that bad, but because it winds up being more insufferable than the subjects at which it's poking fun. I'd gladly watch another low-budget indie dramedy about a starving musician who went to L.A. with the hopes of being a star before I'd watch Lemon again, and I'm sure the impact of that and other films of the like will outlive the shelf-life of this droll comedy.
Starring: Brett Gelman, Judy Greer, Nia Long, Michael Cera, Shiri Appleby, Fred Melamed, and Rhea Perlman. Directed by: Janicza Bravo.