Directed by Janicza Bravo
A man watches his life unravel after he is left by his blind girlfriend.
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★★★½ review by octo8 on Letterboxd
cynical and sour just like the taste of lemons.
★★★★ review by Eli Fine on Letterboxd
The brilliance of Janicza Bravo’s Lemon is clear juxtaposed against another IFF Boston pick – the Alison Brie-Aubrey Plaza vehicle The Little Hours. Both films play in an absurdist sandbox, boosted by stacked casts in the vein of Wet Hot American Summer. Both have ties to the L.A. alternative comedy scene and both directly reflect the sensibilities of their respective stars – Brett Gelman and Plaza. These prima-facie similarities notwithstanding, The Little Hours’s derivative, juvenile attempts at absurdist comedy shone a bright light upon Bravo’s wholly unique, original, and stylish Lemon.
Lemon is the odd Wes Anderson pastiche (reminiscent of The Royal Tenenbaums) that quickly develops its own essence, not least because it unexpectedly uses its Andersonian formalism and quirk to examine familial psychosis.
And who better to be at the center of a film about psychosis than Bravo’s husband, the delightfully unhinged comedian, Brett Gelman. Gelman plays ‘crazy’ well, with regularity and great relish. Here, he plays Isaac, an aging acting coach and commercial actor whose wife (Judy Greer) is not-so-subtly cheating on him. He’s obsessed with one of his pupils, Alex (played by Michael Cera, in perhaps his funniest performance to date), aggressively insinuating himself into Alex’s life whenever possible.
The film deals with the unraveling of Isaac’s life and mind as it becomes ever more obvious that his relationship is over and his acting career is kaput. Throughout, Gelman plays Isaac with a fierce, scary intensity. At a photoshoot (run by the great Megan Mullally), Isaac awkwardly asks for and (somehow receives) the telephone number of Cleo, a pretty makeup artist (Nia Long). Their relationship develops from there, and while Isaac never does anything explicitly villainous, it’s difficult not to fear for Cleo’s safety until the very end.
What is wonderful about Lemon is that it keeps that darkness close to its chest until about the halfway mark. For the first forty-five minutes or so, it’s just an oddly strange bit of Wes Andersonian twee, full of pastel colors and long panning shots and symmetrical imagery. As the story develops, however, you begin to realize that while it’s not made explicit, Isaac is completely deranged – as are the people who surround him.
Full review on The Young Folks: www.theyoungfolks.com/review/102922/iff-boston-review-lemon/
★★★★ review by Emily on Letterboxd
Wes Anderson meets David Lynch meets the people of LA
★★★★½ review by Patrick Llaguno on Letterboxd
This film is such a tense, brutal, raw, unnerving, awkward, offensive, weird, and ultimately surreal experience that I don't know if I can handle seeing this for the second time.
It is also one of the funniest films I've seen so far this year, like seeing what the result of an orgy with David Lynch, Todd Solondz, John Waters, and Wes Anderson would be which is this boldly transgressive feature directorial debut from Janicza Bravo (co-written with her longtime muse and the film's star Brett Gelman).
Aside from the fact that this was written and directed by a woman of color, worth mentioning that its got the same editor as Moonlight (Joi McMillon, who was the first black female editor to be nominated for an Oscar) and the same music supervisor as You're the Worst (Tiffany Anders, also Allison's daughter).
One other random thought: They really need to cast Michael Cera and Rene Auberjonois as relatives in a project together.
★★★★ review by doodlerman on Letterboxd
Very funny, yet very uncomfortable. The events that unfold feel strangely sinister, even though they're usually very average. I'm not sure what the message was or if there even was one, but I had a blast through and through. At its core, I think there's a quest for meaning - or something good, at the very least - in Isaac's (Brett Gelman) life that we can relate to, but the character is so much of a zombie that his actions almost always feel hilariously off-putting.
While I found a lot to love, I can recognize LEMON is not for everyone. While I'd say LEMON's humor is more universal, I'd recommend seeing Janicza Bravo's GREGORY GO BOOM first as a taste of what to expect stylistically.
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