The Good Half is the kind of film an individual my age and with my pop-cultural tastes is predisposed to like, if not, merely respect (admittedly, for some surface-level causes).
Premiering at this 12 months’s Tribeca Movie Pageant, the household dramedy’s director is Robert Schwartzman—one in every of my first cinematic crushes, for his position as introverted love curiosity Michael Moscovitz in The Princess Diaries. Later, in 2008, his band Rooney’s debut album Calling The World turned a staple on my iPod. (My later discovery that he’s a member of the Coppola dynasty earned him further cool factors.)
On prime of that, The Good Half ’s main man is none apart from Nick Jonas, one other childhood crush—extra precisely, idol—whose performing alternatives have largely been restricted to Disney Channel fare, whereby he’s performed a number of variations of himself. (His greatest position since was in a DirecTV present about MMA combating that, by all intents and functions, merely doesn’t exist.)
Even with a plot that sounded akin to famously dangerous films about spiraling males and their Manic Pixie Dream Ladies (Backyard State, Elizabethtown), the prospect of The Good Half a minimum of being considerably, effectively, good nonetheless fueled me with pleasure. So think about my utter disappointment once I found that there’s actually nothing salvageable or remotely shifting about this movie. From its formulaic plot to its mechanical dialogue and one-dimensional characters, The Good Half is as generic and uncurious as a film about grief and masculinity can get.
I want I might say that The Good Half felt promising or worthy of my preliminary curiosity at some level. However the movie exposes its cracks proper out of the gate (primarily courtesy of its charmless screenplay by Brett Ryland) and continues to double-down on its worst instincts over the course of 100 minutes.
The primary signal of bother is in an early scene, the place the movie’s author protagonist Renn (Jonas) meets a therapist named Zoey (Alexandra Shipp) on a flight from Los Angeles to Cleveland, the place Renn’s headed for his mom Lily’s (Elizabeth Shue) funeral. Their meet cute is obviously abrupt and missing any form of grace. It’s nearly as if somebody, chatting with Shipp by means of an earpiece, orders her to show to her left and begin randomly pestering Jonas’s character for no motive in any respect. (Her pickup line is to ask him what’s exterior his window… on a airplane?)
“Watching them joke back-and-forth appears like watching an AI attempt to mimic a Nora Ephron script. ”
Watching them joke back-and-forth—though the precise humor was misplaced on me and, seemingly, my silent fellow viewers members—appears like watching what I can solely describe as an AI making an attempt to imitate a Nora Ephorn script. The arrogance with which these characters ship this flirty and unfathomable dialogue is much more cringey.
Sarcastically sufficient, Renn’s father Darren (Matt Walsh) says one thing in a subsequent scene that echoes the film’s points on this respect. When Darren runs into Renn for the primary time since he’s landed in Cleveland, he can solely converse to his son in meaningless clichés about grief. He then admits that he’s undecided the right way to consolation his household with out sounding like a “Google Search of the right way to console somebody.” In an identical manner, all of the interactions on this film really feel derived from conversations beforehand had in cinema and tv quite than actual, human experiences.
After Renn’s first encounter with Zoey, she vanishes for a lot of the movie, besides to behave as an occasional sounding board for his barely articulated issues. As thankless as her position is, she will barely be described as a Manic Pixie Dream Woman, as a result of she hardly has any actual impact on Renn’s arc. A lot of the movie finds him arranging Lily’s funeral alongside his desperate-to-connect father, his high-strung sister Leigh (Brittany Snow), and his sketchy former stepfather Rick (David Arquette). As quickly as we catch a glimpse of Renn’s dismissive perspective all through the planning course of, it’s clear a breakdown is on the horizon.
The basis of Renn’s unhappiness all through the movie is fairly apparent. However his sardonic and petulant perspective towards the folks surrounding him is a bit perplexing. Generally, Renn thinks he’s higher than the occupants of his Midwestern hometown. He additionally scoffs in any respect the planning processes for memorializing his mom, as if these innocent rituals are a significant affront to her. (He does moderately query why they’re recruiting a Catholic priest when she was a Jewish, nonetheless.)
For probably the most half, although, Renn’s anger is unreasonably misaimed, even for somebody within the throes of grief. As an illustration, when he and Leigh meet the priest to assist write their eulogies, Renn will get upset when the priest inquires about his mom’s hobbies and pursuits, stating that she would’ve resented this course of. “She hated folks and speaking,” he snaps again, though the flashbacks of her say in any other case.
This results in one other evident downside with the movie: It renders Lily’s character, in addition to her relationship to Renn, as utterly uncomplicated. Through flashbacks, the movie paints a portrait of her as a sort, outgoing girl, with a barely rebellious spirit. There’s a working bit about her stealing spoons from eating places, to display that she was a “naughty,” “unconventional” mother. Aside from that, none of Renn’s recollections of Lily provides any complexity to his grief, past the apparent devastation of dropping a mum or dad.
Nonetheless, we ultimately study (just a little too late) that Leigh’s relationship along with her mom was considerably fraught. Towards the top of the movie, she tells Renn that he was the favourite and that she wished their mom took her on the identical adventures as she went on with him. Sadly, the movie isn’t interested in her emotional state previous to that time. Given this further layer—plus Snow’s spectacular efficiency, regardless of the film’s flaws—it looks like the story ought to’ve targeted on Leigh.
By the point Renn is able to unload his grief onto Zoey and varied funeral friends, his response doesn’t repay. Regardless of his makes an attempt to seem stoic main as much as his mom’s burial, it’s obvious that the younger man is struggling to acknowledge his mom’s passing. In the end, that’s the one revelation The Good Half can crescendo to: An indignant man is definitely simply unhappy. Who would’ve thought??
In the end, the movie’s stacked solid is the one factor it actually has going for it. However even their performances are inhibited by a soulless script. Jonas particularly struggles to current any layers or idiocracies to his character past “generic LA jerk.” Likewise, Schwartzman’s route is that of a punchy, easy comedy, which the script by no means actually rises to, regardless of its a number of makes an attempt. Moreover, some enhancing decisions and music cues really feel extraordinarily amateurish for a director making his fourth function.
Regardless of my efforts to dig for nuance or respect the conference of this overdone story, The Good Half is wholly and irredeemably dangerous.