Charm and wit count for a lot in romantic comedies, and they compensate for the many sins of “Funny Story.”
It’s a darkly funny “romance,” but only in the broadest terms.
The film covers familiar ground, and not just in the sense that it’s yet another tale set in scenic, over-filmed California.
And it traffics in cliches and stereotypes, or at least widely accepted tropes common in same-sex romances on the screen.
Walter, given a wry twinkle by Matthew Glave (of TV’s “Angie Tribeca” and “Better Things”), is a semi-retired TV actor with that one, goldmine of a hit under his belt. Decades before, he starred as a sword-and-sorcery “space Viking” in the popular series, “Youngblood.”
Set for life? Ask Shatner, Lynda Carter or Lucy Lawless. “Conventions” and residuals keep him flush.
Which is why he’s all set to dump the too-young/too-ditzy second wife (Daisye Tutor, yes that’s how she spells it.). She puts down her phone and her e-cigarette just long enough to blurt “I’m pregnant,” and put a stop to that.
That’s not news he’s looking forward to telling his adult daughter (Jana Winternitz), who is “always a bit standoffish” when he brings up “the girl that ended my marriage to her mother.” Can’t do it on the phone, and Nic just bailed on a weekend they were to spend together to be with friends up at Big Sur.
No worries, Walter can “drive up.” But Dad, one last thing. Could you pick up a friend, Kim (Emily Bett Rickards) whose car just died? You know, give her a lift up here?
We’ve met Kim as she skulked into her mom’s funeral, trying to shrug off the judgmental “Sorry that I never ran into you at the hospital” relatives.
Kim’s got issues that she might be working out with promiscuity.
Walter? We get a hint that he’s cut a wide swath through highway and byway barmaids and hoteliers.
These two may meet brusque, with brittle conversations about the “boob cancer” that took her mother and the like. We know “OK, do you have a PROBLEM with me?” and Kim’s testy recounting of Walter’s shortcomings as a father aren’t the end of it.
“For someone so small, you wear a huge layer of ‘bitch.'”
Not when he croons a little karaoke. Not when she offers, “Will you do a shot with me?”
Yup. “The best hair in daytime television” has a romp with a woman young enough to be his daughter.
And when they get to Big Sur, Walter figures out how wrong that was. His daughter comes out to him, Kim is her longtime love and oh yeah, this is the weekend they’re getting married.
“This is WONDERFUL. I think.”
I was amused by Walter’s over-the-top efforts to be “cool” with all this, his flippant reaction to his latest “stranger in a strange land” situation, the lone straight male in a fallopian jungle of California lesbians.
Glave gives this guy a light charm, witty and droll about just about everything, including the gulf between himself and the “My cell phone is more interesting than you” generation he’s dealing with.
He’s still popular with the fanboys, and the ladies he weekends with could consider him a sage, if they wanted to.
“Sometimes, regrets are our blessings.”
Rickard’s Kim is clearly a neurotic mess, life not working out on any level, the sort of woman you’d want your child to steer clear of, even if you hadn’t mounted her on a B & B’s armoire. Rickard walks the fine line between villain and basket case with her performance.
But man, the California cliches threaten to overwhelm this sort of faux Woody Allen (black screen intertitles, ancient jazz in the score) “awkward weekend” sex comedy.
Whatever popular culture says about gay men, in movies and on TV, gay women have long been portrayed with this “fluid” sexuality that is the politically correct norm for our more trans-friendly era.
“There are no doors,” one woman explains, cryptically satisfying Walter’s curiosity.
But in the movies, at least, you can’t be a lesbian without being a foodie/vegan, with all the crystals and teepees and shakra cleans uping cliches and wedding ceremonies that “commune with our friends in nature.”
Yeah, one woman plays the autoharp.
And that’s not even taking into account the whole promiscuous indiscriminate, on-the-spectrum sexual omnivore thing that gay women characters are in too many movies to count. What’s that mean? They’re still “available” to the hetero male hero, right?
That’s another thing this Michael J. Gallagher/Steve Greene script has that feels like an homage to Woody Allen — dated stereotypes.
These knocks don’t ruin “Funny Story,” and Glave sees to that. He makes Walter a soulful heel, so we don’t have to strain to believe he’d be attractive to women in general, bisexuals included.
But the trite tropes do make a pretty “Funny Story” a little less funny, I have to say.
MPAA Rating: unrated, sex, nudity, marijuana use, vaping, profanity
Cast: Matthew Glave, Emily Bett Rickards, Jana Winternitz
Credits: Directed by Michael J. Gallagher, script by Michael J. Gallagher and Steve Greene. A Blue Fox Entertainment release.
Running time: 1:25