There are two kinds of people: Those who love Natalie Morales and those who are not yet familiar with Natalie Morales. I’m in the former group, so it was an easy sell for me to track down Language Lessons.
This film-via-Zoom chats is exceedingly warm in spite of some of the darker plot points, giving both Morales and Mark Duplass (who I also like) plenty of time to riff off each other with excellent cemistry.
The story swerves in and out of cliches with reckless abandon, sometimes to charming effect and sometimes to bland effect. But regardless the writing, Morales and Duplass do an amazing job capturing the little peaks and valleys of their growing friendship.
(One note is that this film is quite obviously a product of the COVID era, but the video chat element has nothing to do with quarantine, which is, to my memory, not mentioned at all.)
Despite the formal innovation of the film (essentialy found footage dramedy) its story structure ultimately matches a romantic comedy moreso than a mumblecore-type film for which Duplass is well-known (even though the film is more about close friendship than romance).
It’s a delightful little film, and I hope Morales gets the chance to make more like it.
Before I wrap, one minor complaint: The film simulates video chat and makes clever use of some aspects of that (like turning the camera off). But it also seems to occasionally mimic slow bandwidth, with choppy video and audio, which, while realistic, is pretty annoying. (It’s possible my copy was just busted, but it seemed intentional.)
Very Good (6/8)
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.