A twenty-something slacker looks to add direction to his aimless life path in this burdened comedy.
Although recently perfected (ad nauseam) by the collective known as the Frat Pack (Judd Apatow, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, et al), the subgenre of comedy focusing on men struggling to find the maturity to match their age has been around for decades. From Arthur to Ted, these man-children have made their cinematic presence widely known. Now alongside those billionaires and talking bears comes the latest entry from the indie scene.
In writer/director William von Tagen’s Almosting It, late twenty-something Ralph (von Tagen) would be at a crossroads in his life if his path weren’t so aimless. He has a dead-end job at a retirement home, he belongs to a mercilessly cruel writing group, and he has woman problems. In fact, he has three woman problems—one from the past, one in the present, and one in the future.
The trouble from his past is Lorane (Annie Bulow), his ex, who has moved on since their breakup. Ralph occasionally crosses paths with her, which continuously serves as a reminder to him of what could have been. His present issue with a female involves his roommate, Maggie (Cassandra Lewis). Theirs is a strictly platonic relationship, but under the surface lies the potential for benefits. The lady trouble on his horizon revolves around Quinn (Jessica Sulikowski), the alpha-female caterer who he finds himself running into frequently. There’s a spark between them, but after a bad first date, Ralph wonders if he is ever meant to find love. Desperate for direction, Ralph looks to a pair of relationship-tested old-timers at the retirement home (played by Lee Majors and Terry Kiser) to offer him guidance.
Full confession: the film had me at Lee Majors. The role of an aging playboy is fitting for the actor who, at the height of his popularity in the ’70s and ’80s (thanks to TV’s The Six Million Dollar Man and The Fall Guy), was a bona fide sex symbol. He was also married to fellow sex symbol Farrah Fawcett. He has a great time with his part in this film, and he even allows himself to be upstaged by fellow TV veteran Terry Kiser, a terrific character actor with nearly 50 years experience in the business.
The problem, though, is that the stunt casting is the lede here, which indicates problems with the greater film.
Almosting It opens with great promise: a terrific sequence where Ralph starts calling ex-girlfriends and old hookups with a variety of “Hey, remember me?” introductions. The set-up isn’t original, but the payoff is genuinely funny, and it lets von Tagen shine as an actor, writer, and director. There are also little details throughout the open that beg the question: Is Ralph a renaissance man or some enigma lost in time? His phone is of the flip (not smart) variety; his video collection demands him to be kind and rewind; his preferred writing instrument requires ribbon-changing. It’s all enjoyably quirky.
As the film progresses beyond the first act, though, the either/or question posed above turns out to be a trick question because Ralph is neither lost in time nor a renaissance man; he is a slacker whose apathy is crippling. This, combined with non-existent decision-making skills (he lives and dies on the direction of others), gives him the psychological and emotional consistency of a garden-variety high school student. The apathy grinds the film’s pace considerably, and it weighs many scenes down to the point of lifelessness. Once out of the first act, it becomes hard to care for the protagonist’s circumstance when he doesn’t seem to care about it himself.
The apathetic pall cast over the film also negatively affects the film’s narrative. The film follows a lateral timeline, but the story is never truly fluid; it’s as if each scene is pushed forward simply because of its place in the chronological order of the story, not because they are pivotal to plot or necessarily a smooth telling of events. It feels a bit like a slide show presentation, but live-action.
That said, some of those live-action slides are entertaining (the speed dating scene is a comedic highlight), von Tagen and Lewis have real BFF chemistry, and the veteran TV men are terrific. As a writer and director, von Tagen has core skills; he simply needs to develop them.
If the latest slate of films featuring emotionally stunted men has been brought to us by the Frat Pack, maybe the film’s star and creator, von Tagen, can lead the Slack Pack, recruiting 20-somethings to make movies about overburdened men unable to muster the motivation to solve their life’s problems. Or not. Whatever.