Tuesday, September 26, 2017

In LITERALLY, RIGHT BEFORE AARON, Ryan Eggold offers up a smart, off-the-wall rom-com

Slightly psychotic, as is its very troubled hero (played by Justin Long with finesse, humor and enough believability to win us over), LITERALLY, RIGHT BEFORE ARRON proves an unusual mix of movies that include everything from My Best Friend's Wedding to just about any and every they're-going-to-get-married movie you'll have so far seen. And yet it still manages to seem surprisingly original, if somewhat problematic. The work of actor, Ryan Eggold (shown below, who with this, his first full-length film, has written, directed, edited and composed), the film tracks the coming apart of a young man named Adam, from the time he learns of his ex's impending wedding until the event itself -- in which he plays, well... an unexpectedly major role.

What Mr. Eggold has done here is explore -- at length, in some depth and mostly humorously -- a man's growing and non-stop obsession with a love relationship that, although ended, has not at all gone away. Mr. Long (shown below as the ex who came "literally, right before Aaron," as another character helpfully points out) gives one of his best performances out of many very good ones, as he takes that ball of obsession and runs with it, scoring touchdown after touchdown, even if these are all, in the end, against his own team. Via flashback and fantasy, as well as quite real-if-bizarre situations and supporting characters, the filmmaker gives us this man's about-to-implode life -- work life, love life, family life and more -- as he begins and then continues his sad but pretty funny descent.

Highlights here include a "proposal" scene that is certainly among the oddest ever, with results that will leave your mouth, as it does that of the recipient, hanging open, right through to a wedding reception that is one for the books. Along the way we meet a number of supporting characters, all of whom exist to keep Adam on track, from which, of course, he consistently derails.

Even that would-be love of his life (played by Cobie Smulders, above right) seems to come to life only through Adam's eyes. The groom, too (a hot, hirsute Ryan Hansen, above left) exists more as the antagonist-to-be-toppled than a full-bodied character. But all this is by intention, I suspect, and much of it, but not all, works to the film's advantage. What is missing, is any sense of who this Adam character was prior to his knowledge of his great love's impending marriage.

Clearly he had some major problems, or the earlier pairing would have remained in place. But could he have always been such a desperate jerk? Probably not, but that's what we see here, so we'll just have to take the rest on faith. Among the supporting cast are John Cho (above, right) as Adam's best friend, Kristen Schaal (below, left) as his very bizarre "wedding date," Lea Thompson (shown at bottom) as his mom (looking young enough here to be his sister), and Dana Delany as the bride's mom -- who in a particularly telling scene, intimates that she preferred Adam's Mr Fuck-Up to Aaron's Mr. Perfect.

If you approach Literally, Right Before Aaron with expectations of oddity rather than mainstream romantic comedy, I suspect you'll have a pretty good time. At the very least, you'll get a step-by-step lesson on what not to do so far as your ex -- along with just about everybody else -- is concerned.

From Screen Media Films and running 103 minutes, the movie opens theatrically in a limited run this Friday, September 29 -- in New York City (at the Village East Cinema), Los Angeles (at Laemmle's Monica Film Center) and in Arizona (at the Harkins Shea 14 in Scottsdale) plus another dozen cities over the weeks to come. Click here to see all currently scheduled venues.

If you don't live near any of the current venues, relax: The movie will simultaneously hit VOD this Friday, as well.

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