Writer-director J. Lee does a pretty fantastic job of ignoring, explaining away or otherwise evading the major emotional, professional and interpersonal issues faced by the protagonist of aTypical Wednesday. This perfectly dreadful comedy-drama hybrid tries too hard to be too many different movies in one and doesn’t try hard enough (or at all) to examine how this man got to this point in his life. Lee has no interest in that kind of effort. That is odd, considering that in addition to writing and directing the movie, Lee plays the protagonist. If it seems like a lot of effort without much conviction or, based on the flat lighting and simplistic staging, confidence, it shows, especially in an opening gag that reaches a punch line involving a white kid, a black man and an epithet.

This opening is something of a misdirection on the part of its maker, whose character Gabe is shopping for an apology card with nine-year-old Alec (Cooper Friedman) for reasons we come to understand later in the movie. Alec uses the word, not understanding its significance, and Gabe flicks him on the ear. It’s cause-and-effect, he says, before he flicks the kid’s ear again, for no apparent reason that time. This is clearly not the best way to ingratiate us with these characters, and then the movie flashes back to the actual beginning of the story, which doesn’t exactly revolve around why they’re shopping for the card but provides the increasingly depressing context. Gabe and Alec are patients of the same therapist, Dr. Jones (Michael Ealy, looking like he’s having an existential crisis onset).

Gabe, as written by Lee, has only general problems to deal with – namely, his relationships with women and frustrations about his job as personal trainer at a local gym. The primary relationship conflicts are with Millie (Emmy Raver-Lampman), his on-and-off girlfriend, and Bailey (Bresha Webb), a one-night-stand (and borderline-stalker) who announces her pregnancy and intent to raise the child with Gabe. He certainly isn’t ready for that kind of commitment. He has, however, unintentionally kidnapped Alec, a troubled kid who actively regresses in development as the proceedings go on (beginning the story as merely a troubled kid and ending it as, potentially, a clinical psychopath and pyromaniac), from his worried parents (Kelen Coleman and Michael Mosley).

The plot follows the pair as they attempt to follow through on Alec’s false claim that he needs to be returned to his grandmother’s house. The journey involves a lot of embarrassing detours – from that trip to the card shop, where a paranoid and racist cashier insists that he must frisk Gabe, to the gym, where Bailey causes a ruckus, Millie learns enough about Gabe to want to stay away (we don’t blame her) and Gabe’s friend Patty (Seth Green), a guitarist who achieved minor local fame, tags along for the rest of the adventure for absolutely no narrative purpose whatsoever. The climax, in which multiple “other shoes” drop to reveal the truth about Alec and his troubles, is bizarrely framed by a call made to racist cops one heated argument away from a tragic outcome.

That last bit could either be read as great or poor timing with what’s happening in the real world, but considering that Lee plays the whole thing for comedy (including an unfortunate reference to Boyz N the Hood that does not have as much to do with the surrounding events as you might expect), let’s call it what it is: utterly and entirely tone-deaf. It does work, though, as exactly the kind of climax one can expect from the whole of aTypical Wednesday, which then leads into an epilogue that lets everyone off the hook far too easily. We have not been given enough reasons as to why Gabe or Alec or anyone else is worthy of our sympathy. Indeed, the movie works against our expectation that it would provide that one, simple thing. It cheats, and it does so often.

  • The Outpost

    It isn’t exactly complex, but as a study of war waged with curt brutality, The Outpost res…
  • Holy Hell! Wonder Boys Turns 20

    A special movie in which a wandering soul tests our ability to sympathize with a protagoni…
  • StarDog and TurboCat

    A garden-variety, adventure-flavored buddy comedy with little to set it apart from its con…
  • Revisit: Marriage Story

    To truly let Marriage Story penetrate your heart is simple as long as you possess empathy …
  • Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

    The perfect distillation of bar life, compassionate eyes watching and—crucially—listening …
  • Volition

    The thoroughly misguided plot feels decades old, which isn’t the sort of time travel it’s …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

The Outpost

It isn’t exactly complex, but as a study of war waged with curt brutality, The Outpost res…