Starring: Jake johnson, Susan Sarandon, JK Simmons, and Darcy Carden.
Directed By: Trent O’Donnell
Where I Watched it: Hulu
English Audio Description Available?: No.
Plot: Leaf (Johnson) is a transient musician living two shakes away from rock bottom when he discovers that his estranged mother (Sarandon) has died, and left him her cabin in the woods, provided he finish her bucket list.
What Works: Full disclosure, as a blind critic, reviewing something without audio description, you can take this however you want. There is a good idea buried in this film that after multiple rewrites might have actually had some sort of coherent tone that helped make the film decent. So, I guess I’m celebrating the concept of the film.
Aside from that, Jake Johnson does the best with his material, which at times is cringeworthy, but occasionally he sells scenes that shouldn’t work, because this film has no emotional weight. I’m impressed with his few dramatic moments here, and actually the scenes he shares with Darcy Carden are the strongest in the film. Carden, for her part, does well with her material, and Sarandon, who is limited in her ability to fully contribute since she’s already dead before the movie starts, does what she can.
What Doesn’t Work: The rest of the cast is in an entirely different film. I love me some JK Simmons as much as the next guy, but his weirdo routine feels so incredibly out of place in an already totally impotent movie. No one would have a conversation with their dead girlfriends son about how much she loved anal and threesomes. And he’s not even drunk or high. He just flat out tells him that his mom loved anal. Come on now.
And every scene with the guy in Leaf’s band, whose property he also lives on, just drags down the film. I still don’t know what to make of that character, and the banter/relationship between him and Leaf. It feels so badly written or possibly unscripted. He was easily the worst thing about the film, and the fact that we had to revisit him, ever, at any point, was annoying.
The truth is that the film doesn’t have any idea what to actually do with the concept given, nor can it decide what it wants to be in terms of tone. Is it a straight up raunchy comedy whre we laugh about anal? Is it a journey of self discovery where a mom leaves her son a bucket list that might lead him back to his one true love? Is it a film about a musician at a crossroads in his life? Who the fuck knows. This film doesn’t.
It’s so poorly written that the film doesn’t even bother establishing Leaf as a character. The first scene in this movie is a friend of his mom’s coming to his house to tell him his mom died, there’s a cabin, and a bucket list. The film wastes absolutely no time, but maybe it should? Maybe it should have spent ten minutes giving the audience a chance to meet Leaf, see where he’s at in life, so we can figure out what kind of journey he’s on. But, no. He’s right off on this journey.
The Blind Perspective: I prefer audio description at all times. The only reason I bothered, is that I’m a huge Jake Johnson fan. As far as being able to follow the plot, there are times where the film goes silent with no discernible dialogue, like perhaps a montage is happening, and you’ll have no idea what’s going on. But this film really should still be a character’s journey of discovery, whether the director realizes that or not, and Johnson is someone who thrives through dialogue, so we have quite a bit of scenes that are easy to follow. Enough that i didn’t really ever feel too lost. It’s up to you. It’s not an easy watch without audio description, but it’s also not unwatchable.
Final Thoughts: With a different script and possibly a different director, this film could have taken the core concept and it’s talented cast on the journey it thought it was going on. Instead of riding the eagle, it rides a lemming right off a cliff. However, despite all the failures, there is some strong work to appreciate in this cast. Come for the acting, because everything else will let you down.
Final Grade: C-