Directed by Janicza Bravo
A man watches his life unravel after he is left by his blind girlfriend.
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★★★★ 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 Blaine McGaffigan on Letterboxd
An absurdist dark comedy that plays on the strengths of Brett Gelman’s deadpan acting style. First time director Janicza Bravo has a command and style that is already developed.
If only the script were tighter. The family scene in the middle feels out of place but is punctuated by a fun musical number.
The music and colors add a lot to the film to build a heightened and quirky Los Angeles that’s vibrant and diverse. “Lemon” isn’t afraid of rubbing disparate cultures together and watching the fallout.
Overall, an enjoyable watch that I would definitely revisit.
★★★½ review by Josh H on Letterboxd
★★★½ review by Amanda Storey on Letterboxd
THE GREASY STRANGLER (2016) it's not, but it's still the weirdest film I saw this year on the festival circuit. It's dark. It's wickedly funny. It's disgusting. For those feeling stuck and afraid they'll stay that way forever...watch this at your own peril, or perhaps come away assured. Oh, and props to Brett Gelman and Martin Starr for coming away as The Most Convincing Movie Siblings.
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