Thursday, June 10, 2021

Welcome Matt: Movie Review

Creative and funny, but weak drama.
There’s a strong creative effort put into Welcome Matt, and a sense of community coming together. Made during the pandemic, writer and director Leon Pierce Jr. has made the most of the limitations. It's very indie, and I’m not sure the agoraphobia topic is his forte, but it’s clever and funny, and all the pieces, especially the lead character, fit together really well.   2021

Directed by: Leon Pierce Jr

Screenplay by: Leon Pierce Jr

Starring: Tahj Mowry, Adriyan Rae

Matt (Tahj Mowry) is a filmmaker who after one hit movie now suffers from agoraphobia. He spends his days inside, stuck emotionally and creatively. The events leading to his mental illness are not revealed until much later into the movie. If you view the movie as about struggling with and then over-coming mental illness, that aspect is not written particularly well. However, if the film is more about the creative process while living with a mental illness (especially if we expand that to the creative process during COVID), it is effective in that regard.

The limited production is obvious, and I would guess a few actors got hired just because they were available, but they all have excellent line delivery. There are a lot of solid comedic moments to help keep the audience invested.

Matt’s mother suggests that if he really is a filmmaker then he should make movies like Steven Spielberg, everybody likes his movies. Thanks, Matt’s mom for the constructive advice. Matt’s girlfriend/ex-girlfriend Samantha is a model-turned-wannabe-actress who is cheating on him but still likes turning up to offer unsolicited advice and try to hit him up for a part.

The meta movie-within-a-movie is where the creative efforts really shine. Since Matt is stuck in his house, and playing video games and watching TV has not really helped his mental state, he’s going to write his own movie, and make it in his own house. He tries casting, but that doesn’t go well, so he decides to play every part himself. In a solid comedic role by Deon Cole, a stoned stranger tells him how very not good his movie his. We hear snippets of his screenplay, it is hilariously bad. The real Welcome Matt is a much better movie.

Primarily comedy at the beginning, Matt is a very relatable character to all audiences. Mowry has done an excellent job normalizing mental illness, keeping Matt funny and layered. The film slows down significantly when it starts introducing the drama aspects. Matt gets an in-home therapist/love interest, and friends pressuring him to go outside and do things. The more serious exploration of agoraphobia is short-shifted, but I appreciate the creative effort to make a confined movie.