Where I Watched It: Peacock
English Audio Description?: No
One of those rare reviews I still do where there was no audio description. Is this film still watchable? Isn’t that why you’re here?
All movies could be enhanced by audio description for blind and visually impaired, even the easier to follow ones, because likely there is always something we are missing. Directors always like to have quiet scenes, moments where actors do things through motion not dialogue, and sometimes entire montages that pass time while set to music. Even in an easy to understand film, we can still miss out on a lot, sometimes without even noticing it.
An example of this was that a while back I watched the film The Humans, hearing it was based on a play, and figuring it would be dialogue heavy. Unbeknownst to me, there were ghosts. I had no idea. but, I saw several reviews and recaps mentioning the presence of ghosts, and that was 100% lost on me.
Here, BJ Novak is making his feature directorial debut, and for anyone familiar with his writing, that is exactly why you show up. Novak is a writer that has something to say for his generation, and has a knack for conversational dialogue of our time much like Woody Allen could make a film flow effortlessly just through a back and forth between two characters. Here, Novak uses the backdrop of rural Texas to challenge preconcieved notions not just about what this Jewish Hollywood writer might think of people from this area, but also what Novak thinks of people like him. Playing a writer who is called by the family of a girl he hooked up with once, who believe he is her boyfriend, to find out she unexpectedly died, and he’s welcomed and wanted at her funeral is a bizarre premise. Taking our casual dating scenes of swiping right on the road and making someone have to actually make a connection with others as a result, is almost like a warning to millennials. Here, novak’s character writes for New York post, so this gives him the opportunity to turn his experience into a story. This all escalates when someone suggests to him that she didn’t just die, she was murdered.
i adore this script, and for me personally, I’d love at any point to see or hear actors read from it. novak’s writing just pops so quickly, and his characters are so subversive intentionally that there isn’t one way to define any character, or even the Texas experience. Although, i did love the conversation about Whataburger and i defy any Texan to tell me they didn’t love it too.
The crown jewel of novak’s film, surprisingly, is Ashton Kutcher, who delivers a fantastic performance, letting Novak’s existential dialogue flow about counter culture, the true nature of why people see Texans the way they do, and a lot of other things. his role is small, but impactful and necessary to the script. And it came from Ashton Kutcher. Go figure.
if this film had audio description, honestly it would probably be in my top 10 for the year. However, there are moments without dialogue, action that happens, where I was lost. And sadly, I have to acknowledge that. if i was a more important critic, and an artist like BJ Novak cared what I had to say, my answer would be that he should make sure every project he does develops accessibility across the board. Why not?
is it worth stumbling through? Yes. Will you understand everything? probably not. But Novak’s script makes for one of the brightest and most intelligent films of the year you won’t want to miss.
Final Grade: A-