“Spivak” is a hapless indie comedy about the last guy in the world you’d figure would “get the girl.”
Yes, Michael Cera’s in it. No, he’s not the “last guy” this time around.
It’s a “Swingers” that doesn’t swing.
The filmmakers behind “Pumpkin” and “Dead Man on Campus” turn to actor and Tarantino mascot Michael Bacall, whose writing credits (“Scott Pilgrm vs. The World,” “21 Jump Street”) as their anti-hero, the anti-social librarian and would-be writer who is as out of place in L.A. as any shorter, younger version of Steve Buscemi can be.
Wally Spivak lives with roommates, who can’t finish or publish this novel he’s been struggling with for three and a half years, and who crushes on the uninterested Sasha (Chloe Wepper), who has invited him to her “Unlovables” Valentine’s Day Party.
He’s rather go home and sulk. But that means walking past the successful fraud Robby Lebeau (Cera), whose just published memoir, “MacArthur Park’d” is about his days of addiction and sexual hustling at the famous nearby park.
“See the article about me in ‘The Paris Review?’ Just gotta get published, Wally.”
Pals Jesse and Kevin (Mark Webber, Elden Henson) drag him out on Valentine’s Day, figuring they’ll hook up with “desperate” women. That doesn’t exactly work out. Wally just snoozes, which is howw they drag him to Vegas in the wee hours to this place they’ve heard is a “sure thing.”
In the cavernous, empty and cover-charged Elysium, they nurse their drinks as Wally, against all odds, is approached and invited to her room by the first gorgeous woman (Maggie Lawson of TV’s “Psych”). No, she’s not a hooker, his first thought (and ours).
It turns Jeanine is a fellow Angelino about to get married. And she and her intended use Vegas as their “one last night of sex with somebody else” adventure.
Running into her and Chuck (Brit Robert Kazinsky of “True Blood”) repeatedly is too awkward. So the couple decides to make a project of Wally. They’ll fix him up. You know, with an L.A. Laker Girl (Ahna O’Reilly of TV’s “Kingdom”). They’ll golf together, weekend at Catalina.
Chuck, a golf pro, wants to read Wally’s book.
And all this changes Wally’s not, if not Wally.
The thesis here, passed on to Wally by his concerned pals, is that “great writers live interesting lives.” He’s got to get out and live to do that. Even Robby Lebeau managed that, after a fashion.
But you can take the lump out of the library and not the library out of the lump. Wally pouts, broods and cannot manage the socializing. Little moments here and there, but not enough to keep the interest of a Laker Girl.
And that’s true of the movie, too. Wally is too unlikable, and even pity for him feels misplaced.
The awkward moments outnumber the actually amusing ones, and neither is much evident in this script. I didn’t quote any funny lines, because truthfully, there aren’t any that stood out.
Bacall? He’s still better as a bit player, even in a movie built around him.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA
Cast: Michael Bacall, Maggie Lawson, Robert Kazinsky, Elden Henson, Mark Webber, Ahna O’Reilly and Michael Cera
Credits: Written and directed by Anthony Abrams and Adam Larson Broder A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:31