Lemon – 4 out of 5
I’m quite the listener to podcasts. My subscription list is long and sometimes they are the only things that get me through a long day at my day job. One of those podcasts is Comedy Bang! Bang! and one of the guests that I really enjoy hearing on the show Brett Gelman. The antagonistic comedy stylings that he has with host Scott Aukerman always has me laughing like a madman—and then coughing while I’m sitting at my desk to try and act like I wasn’t just laughing out loud. While on a recent episode, Gelman promoted his latest project; a film that he and his wife co-wrote that starred him and was directed by his wife. Gelman literally could have stopped right there because that was all the information I needed and I was immediately sold to watch this latest project; Lemon.
|I'm seeing double, four slightly balding men with beards and glasses!|
After his girlfriend of ten years (Judy Greer) leaves him, Isaac (Gelman) starts to find himself on a path that is constantly winding down. His career isn’t working out the way he wants, he’s getting angry and jealous over his friends’ success and even when he agrees to help colleagues out with a favor, he finds he ends up screwing them up and causing more trouble. However, after he meets a woman named Cleo (Nia Long), it becomes a possibility that he can turn things around…but only a small possibility.
|Greer's character is blind but it was Isaac who didn't see the breakup coming!|
|I have a habit of screaming in my car, too. Also, crying.|
After watching Lemon, I really had to take some time to process what I watched because it was so unique and an animal all its own. The film with its writing was somehow able to be sad, off-putting and humorous all at the same time. Smaller budget features like this are no stranger to having both drama and comedy mixing in ways that a lot of bigger budget films just can’t pull off but this movie was beyond your run-of-the-mill dramedy. Lemon isn’t exploring the depths of human interaction and emotion with times of comedy and times of drama that culminates in an ending that is uplifting or, at the very least, an ending that brings about understanding; this film just didn’t do that. We’re literally just watching a guy who has his world unraveling around him while he just flops around fumbling in an attempt to maintain control but ultimately is just making things worse. It was an interesting experience to say the least.
|Play "Staying Alive" so you get the full effect of this pic.|
After I had my time to fully process Lemon, I realized it’s quite the remarkable film. The movie presents a story that offers up moments of amusement and comedy but never fully felt like it was diving into drama. Instead, what is happening to Isaac feels more akin to a car accident and you’re just a spectator that is on this metaphor’s highway and you’ve taken the time to slow your vehicle down to see if anything else is going to happen. Isaac isn’t a very sympathetic character but I never found myself feeling completely apathetic for him either. Yes, there are moments that I laughed at his trauma and I never really felt sorry for him over what was occurring but I was captivated with him and his downward spiral nonetheless. It’s a testament to Gelman’s performance and his writing with Janicza Bravo that they were able to present a story that centers on a pathetic man that has his life coming completely undone and with no sign of an upside or victory in sight and still be completely engaging to watch.
|Also, did I mention the film's sex appeal?|
Coming alongside the excellent writing and stark presentation is the performances. Everyone from Gelman to the supporting cast of Greer, Nia Long, Michael Cera, Gillian Jacobs and Jeff Garlin are really nailing it and helping craft a tone for this film that feels uncomfortable, sorta bleak, but also kinda otherworldly and odd—sorta like it was a play existing alongside the real world. This film, additionally, is just overloaded with talent as you also have Rhea Perlman, Jon Daly, Martin Starr, Fred Melamed, David Paymer and Rex Lee all along for the ride and each and every single person feels so right for the role and fitting in so effectively for the overall odd and uncomfortable tone this film holds.
|Cera's hairstyle makes me want to watch some episodes of The IT Crowd.|
Lemon is an example of those one-of-a-kind movies that just sorta appears without warning and leaves an impact after it’s gone. There’s no spectacle or flash to it, there’s just a simple story of a man losing everything and there’s not a happy ending in sight. The film won’t resonate with everyone who sees it but its dry wit and the fact its default setting is for maximum discomfort will leave an impact, good or bad, on those who watch. This fact alone speaks volumes about what a piece of art this film really is.