Friday, August 18, 2017

Lemon: Movie Review


Not a good crazy.
There’s a scene in Lemon where Michael Cera’s character says to Brett Gelman’s character, “I knew you were crazy, but I thought it was a good crazy. I liked it. I liked it a lot; I thought it was fun. Now I know you’re bad crazy; you’re unstable.” The quote also works as a good description of the film. A film that is very clearly crazy, but is it good crazy or bad crazy? Could it be a fun and likable kind of crazy? The answer to the latter question is “no.” 2017

Directed by: Janicza Bravo

Screenplay by: Janicza Bravo, Brett Gelman

Starring: Brett Gelman, Judy Greer

Off-beat is exactly the type of adjective that should be used to describe a film like Lemon. It’s not just that it’s not mainstream, but that there’s a really strange rhythm to the movie. Each scene is a random scene in this man’s life and makes little sense on its own, and makes even less sense in the overall picture. The editing does not present a narrative, but a jarring jump to a strange interpretation of this man’s life.

Judy Greer and Brett Gelman in LEMON, a Magnolia
Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
There is a common theme to each scene, so we can form an idea of the story it’s telling. Isaac (Brett Gelman) is no longer with his wife. He’s an actor – vainly trying to book disparaging commercials, confidently and angrily teaching an acting class. The overall theme of the movie also becomes clear – he’s a man that forms stronger connections to people than they form with him, when they push away, he pushes back harder and angrier. He’s the one connection in his life that is making his life miserable. He’s the lemon.

The structure of the film is actually that of a play. Most scenes are set in a staged room, where the camera gives us only one view and will occasionally pull back to give us context. Scenes will transition to the next by having a character just enter stage left – not because there’s a reason for that character to enter or even that the character should even be in that scene but because there’s an outside force (in this case the script) that says “Ramona enters stage left”. This is all on purpose. He is an actor, half of the movie takes place on an acting set, he struggles to understand himself - even if he was a character in a play that he wrote.

A friend (is that the right word, does he have friends?) says to Isaac,“it’s time for a new you. The old you doesn’t work anymore”. His attempts to change his life just make the film even stranger.