Tuesday, November 10, 2015

At Your Leisure

I finally got around to watching The Leisure Class.  It's the result of this season's Project Greenlight, an HBO show about the making of a film.  So I know all about the behind-the-scenes story, but what of the film itself. It's gotten pretty bad reviews, but were the critics and audience lying in wait after seeing the reality show?

Those who watched Project Greenlight know The Leisure Class was not the film they originally set out to make.  There was a script for another comedy--Not Another Pretty Woman--that was tossed overboard when they chose contest winner Jason Mann to direct the film.  Mann felt that script was too broad, not the kind of comedy he liked, and wanted to adapt a short film he'd worked on--a more satirical piece.  He got his wish.

We don't know much about the original script, which was by a professional comedy writer, but the scene we got to see--something about speed dating or a blind date, I'm not sure--looked like it might hold some promise.  Meanwhile, Mann's plot, about some jerky guy ruining his brother's upper class wedding, felt cliched and tiresome even before the cameras rolled, and the few bits we got to see in Project Greenlight looked weak.

But maybe Mann had something to say, or some exciting plot twist.  Alas, not so.   The Leisure Class, which takes place over 24 hours, is about William, about to marry into Fiona's rich and powerful family, with the blessings of her parents Edward and Charlotte.  Then brother Leonard shows up and messes up everything.  It also turns out William himself is a con man who's fooling his fiancé and her parents about his past.

There are possibilities here, but from this point on the motivations make little sense.  It's hard to believe William and Fiona care about each other, though we're told they do.  It's hard to believe no one could find out about William's past, even though Edward has looked into it.  It's hard to believe Fiona's sisters Carolyn and Allison act as they do--one highly suspicious, one hot for Leonard (basically channeling Isla Fisher from Wedding Crashers--in fact, this film owes a lot to Wedding Crashers).

Leonard himself has no motivations, except mindless malevolence.  And after some farcical goings on which are hard to buy, we get into a more dramatic situation--the film changes tone, though it hasn't earned it--and we're suddenly bringing up issues of money and elections and family and so on that don't mix together or make much sense. (The whole concept of this moneyed family, by the way, seems old-fashioned, like it came out of a 1930s film.)  And then when everything is revealed and William and Fiona decide to get married anyway and the father goes along with it, you feel a reel is missing explaining why any of them would do such a thing. The film then stops, more than it ends.

Most of the comedy comes from the two brothers, played by Ed Weeks and Tom Bell, simply riffing on the situation and spinning absurd lies.  They get a few laughs, though it's hard to buy the others accept them, and in any case what they're doing is not very satisfying plotwise.  Meanwhile, the three sisters, not to mention their parents, played by veterans Bruce Davison and Brenda Strong, are stranded by the script.

This is the fourth film to come out of Project Greenlight. Right now they're 0 for 4.  But I hope they keep going.  I didn't like any of the songs to come out of American Idol either, but I did enjoy the show.

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