Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The maturation process, again: Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs' GROWING UP & OTHER LIES

Beautifully acted and often filled with smart and funny dialog, GROWING UP & OTHER LIES, the new ensemble piece from Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs (the pair who co-wrote and co-directed the worthwhile Humboldt County some years back) is a good enough movie to make you wish it were better. This New York tale of four male friends and a couple of their women -- bonding for maybe the last time as one of them heads to Ohio -- is neither specific enough for character study, funny enough for comedy, nor deep enough for drama.

It does, however, provide some succulent dialog and decent scene to be acted by its cast -- which includes the two writer/directors (Grodsky, shown at left, and Jacobs, below, left). The others guys, shown respectively from Jacobs' left, are Adam Brody (as Rocks, who's having some issues with his pregnant girlfriend), Josh Lawson (as Jake, the failed artist who's headed for Ohio), and Wyatt Cenac, a good actor who is utterly wasted here as Gunderson, a characterless character with no past, future or any interests to be found, other than being wittily dyspeptic. What a waste.

The ladies are limned by the always alert Amber Tamblyn (below, as Jake's ex) and Lauren Miller as the gal about to give birth to Rock's son.

The movie should off-and-on delight those who know and love New York City, as the progression the little group takes moves from north (Wash-ington Heights) southward, and includes a sudden detour into Queens.

Each character gets his/her bit of story and screen-time (except for Mr. Cenac, which raises the question of whether this role was cast color-blind or if, once again, blacks simply take a back seat to the concerns of the white characters. Who is this guy? Next time, filmmakers, give him a story, please.

The biggest problem here is that the "events" chosen for depiction neither deepen the characters all that much nor bring us close enough to them to care. As one of the guys suddenly points out toward the ending of the film, "We're not friends anymore." Duh... Exactly.

Growing up is indeed difficult to manage, and it is to be the movie's credit that it doesn't hand us some nitwit feel-good finale. But that alone if not quite enough to make the experience worth sitting through, despite Mr. Brody's ability to show us such a wide range of specific emotional progress, Mr. Lawson's learning a little about his lacks, and Mr. Jacobs' employment and self-image problems.

Growing Up & Other Lies, from Phase 4 Films and running just 90 minutes, opens this Friday, March 20, in New York City at the Quad Cinema and pretty much nationwide via VOD.

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