Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Todd Berger's IT'S A DISASTER is anything but. What a smart, unusual, funny movie!

If he seems to have come out of nowhere with his new movie, IT'S A DISASTER, actor/filmmaker Todd Berger's been around awhile. Still, little will prepare you for quite the good time you'll have at this rollicking ensemble comedy about couples, relationships and... no, I can't do it. I can't give away the dark little surprise that Mr. Berger has in store for his four couples (or would-be couples) who meet (somewhere in L.A., I think) for their regularly scheduled "couples brunch."

Anyone possessing balls big enough to risk giving his movie a title like this deserves immediate respect. Further, as writer/director, Mr. Berger, shown at left, has provided some of the funniest, most believable dialog to come out of the mouths of a group of 30-something friends in a good long while. (You may want to see the movie a second time, just to catch the bits you missed the first time round.) And this dialog is not simply clever and funny. It's also about character, slowly building each odd and specific man and woman as it falls from his or her and everyone else's lips.

From his lovely, black-and-white, beginning credits sequence of archival footage featuring the H-bomb going off in (I think) the Bikini Atoll, to the rather odd but all the more varied and wonderfully bizarre relationships between and among the couples present, Berger absolutely knows his stuff, script-wise. And his direction is good enough to sustain that script right through to its hilarious, hold-your-breath finale.

To go even a step or two further into plot could spoil the movie's major surprise. What the hell: The f-ing poster above manages that "spoiler" all by itself. Oh, the poster is cleverly designed, all right, but why not use a visual of the brunch ensemble, making us think that the disaster has to do with how badly that comes off (which, in many ways, it does), leaving the meaning of disaster to bubble and boil over later? Oh, well: this was yet another  "marketing" decision, I suppose.

Good ensemble movies need good casts, and this one has been blessed. The four couples -- three of them long-term and one brand new -- are played by some very talented people, many of them new to me. The couple at whose home the brunch takes place (and who have their own major surprise at the ready) is played by Erinn Hayes (in front, above left) and Blaise Miller (in front, center left), and both actors are just fine in the movie's most "serious" roles. Their best friends and a lot looser and funnier are played by Rachel Boston and Kevin M. Brennan (both barely seen above in the background, far left). These two are consistently delightful and surprising. The third couple is comprised of the goofy, annoying but always funny Jeff Grace (above, right) and America Ferrera, only recently treading the boards here in NYC off-Broadway. Ms Ferrera plays the smartest member of the little group (book-learnin'-wise, at least) and so proves most helpful in the final stretch.

If I had to pick my favorites, though, these would be Julia Stiles (above, left) and Davis Cross (above, right). Ms Stiles continues to improve as an actress, here putting her increasingly dry humor to great use. She's the woman who consistently saddles herself with crazy men. This time, however, it looks like she's got a winner in Mr. Cross, a decent guy who may not boast six-pack abs but seems to be a mensch when and where it counts. From the scene that begins the movie as they arrive at the brunch, right through to the end, these two keep surprising and amusing us. But, then, they're all good: every last cast member in every last scene. In fact, for a little movie that almost no one will have heard of prior to opening, It's a Disaster is what you very well might call memorable.

The movie, from Oscilloscope and running a lean 88 minutes, opens this Friday, April 12, in new York City (Village East Cinema), Brooklyn (Nighthawk Cinema) and Los Angeles (Los Feliz 3). Over the coming weeks, it'll wend its way into 16 more cities. You can find all playdates, cities and theaters by clicking here and scrolling down a bit.

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