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Legacy Review

Lemon (2017)

Lemon starts as an investigation of how actors use performance to filter out their horrible lives before pivoting to a satire about how pitiful LA people are, I guess?

The movie centers on Brett Gelman playing a supremely unpleasant actor named Isaac going through a rough patch. Isaac is in the midst of a nasty breakup and floundering professionally — the movie repeatedly humiliates its protagonist by showing him starring in incontinence and Hepatitis ads.

Though only a merciful 83 minutes, Lemon is tough to get through as Isaac faces one personal crisis after another, many self-inflicted. It picks up just a little bit in the last half hour when Nia Long’s Cleo takes center stage and adds some sympathy (plus some racial dynamics) to the mix.

Deep pools of comic talent are largely wasted: Michael Cera, Gillian Jacobs, Megan Mullally, Martin Starr, Rhea Perlman, Jeff Garlin all appear and too quickly disappear, though Cera at least gets to go all-in for a few scenes.

If you have a certain sardonic sense of humor, you might find some pleasure in Lemon; certainly a few of the movie’s sketches felt like they might have been funny on paper, only to end in blood-curdling discomfort and inhumanity in practice.

Saving the film from outright catastrophe is that director Janicza Bravo and cinematographer Jason McCormick have a really strong sense of style. They use compositions that juxtapose motion and stillness, plus a striking Wes Anderson-via-piss palate. It’s enough to make me hesitantly optimistic that I’d like Bravo’s Zola, a film that presumably has more of a narrative mission statement than this one.

Is It Good?

Not Very Good (3/8)

Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.

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