Sweet Parents Review
Sweet Parents (2017) Film Review, a movie directed by David Bly, and starring David Bly, Leah Rudick, Sunita Mani, Casey Biggs, Daniel Marin, Willie C. Carpenter, Barbara Weetman, Chris Roberti, Daniel Pettrow, G. Michelle Robinson, Katie Hartman, Amy Jackson Lewis, Jessica Afton, Matt Shingledecker, Adam P. Murphy, and Joel Albin.
Having seeing David Bly’s Sweet Parents, I find myself in the unenviable but hardly unfamiliar position of cataloguing the flaws of a movie that I actually enjoyed. The plot and premise are pretty solid – a young, artistic-minded couple struggling to get by find themselves befriending older benefactors who have the power to advance their careers but also jeopardize their relationship with each other – but the movie suffers from a chronic unsureness about what it wants to do with said plot and premise.
The opening sequence sets the stage for the film’s confusing tone. Set eight years before the main events of the film, this brief prologue shows Gabby (Leah Rudick) and Will (David Bly) search for an apartment as part of their plan to establish themselves in New York City. With one apartment after another proving to be unsuitable or undesirable due to such inconveniences as squatters insisting they have two more days to move out, the two lovers settle for a room with a swastika painted on the wall, reasoning that their stay will be temporary. It doesn’t turn out that way of course, giving the audience not only something to chuckle at but an ironic taste of what is presumably to come. I say “presumably” because although that’s what one might think going in, the sardonic nature of the opening is replicated only intermittently throughout the rest of the movie.
What little of this tone survives is mostly relegated to scenes where the main characters’ friends are present, and even then the humor is a mere shadow of that in the intro. Will’s curly-haired confidante Josh (Chris Roberti) appears to be the closest thing the film has to a comic relief character even though said relief is often more crude than comical, while Jacob Mondry gets in a brief but memorable appearance as Pierce, a flamboyant friend of a friend who gets the honor of dropping the movie’s title. Bizarrely, a female friend of theirs named Claire is played by Upright Citizens Brigade alum and GLOW regular Sunita Mani, whose aforementioned credits you’d think would entitle her to a substantiatively funny role but ends up going without saying anything remotely interesting for the two short scenes she appears in. Maybe the movie isn’t meant to be funny, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect actors you know to be funny to be so.
Another weakness of the film is its heavy reliance on montages, with there being at least five of varying length over the course of the movie. The first is fine enough, capturing the drudgery of Will and Gabby going to work or alternatively trying to find work while finding time for their passions, but the rest feel like they were included to inch the final product closer to the two hour mark. The most baffling montage happens to be the second, and it might be a reach to even call it such. Showing Gabby get ready for a night with her “sweet parent”, the sequence not only stays in the same time and location but clocks in under a minute, ending well before we are able to grasp the point of it.
As far as film leads go Bly and Rudick are suitable, if not necessarily convincing, enough. Rudick brings an appropriately high-strung vibe to the insecure Gabby, but Bly is composed and strangely lacksadaiscal as Will, coming across as inexplicably collected while he and his soul mate struggle to make ends meet and their artistic ambitions go unfulfilled. He sounds more bored than surprised when he says “f***” after getting back from dinner with Guilayne (Barbara Weetman) and seeing that Gabby got home early, and his snide, unconvincing delivery of the line “because it takes money to make money” is easily more at home in a second-rate sitcom than an award-winning indie feature.
Even at points in the story when he should be the most upset – confronting Oscar (Casey Biggs) over dinner about his connection to his girlfriend, and then Gabby herself after she hosts her first art show with him – Will remains a constrained, passive-aggressive presence, insinuating that Gabby sees the aging artist as a surrogate for her late father and not so much as bringing himself to shout as he reminds her of their shared dream to see each other succeed. This lack of visceral emotion on Bly’s part robs Will and Gabby’s relationship of a real climax, leaving it to fizzle after the last scene cuts to black and the credits hit the screen.
The sweet parents of the title fare much better though, with both Weetman and Biggs bringing the requisite qualities to their respective roles and inarguably outshining their protagonist counterparts. Weetman is perceptive and seductive as Guilayne, providing just enough warmth as the globe-trotting consultant to make Will’s interest in her understandable while staying mysterious enough to leave the viewer wondering what her interest in him really is. Biggs, who the Trekkies in the audience might recognize (or not, since he’s not wearing make-up this time around) as the noble Cardassian Damar from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, is bold but not brash, portraying Oscar as a gregarious bon vivant who, whatever his unspoken intentions toward her are, one can see why Gabby enjoys his company. Additionally, he speaks in a breathy Brazilian accent throughout that, while clearly noticeable, is neither distracting nor exaggerated, a feat that deserves especial commendation considering how easily it could have descended into caricature.
Aspects of the film like Biggs’ performance and the classic concept make it worth watching, but aspects like the uncertain tone and excessive montage scenes don’t exactly lend it to repeat viewings. In other words, there’s just enough to enjoy Sweet Parents but not enough to make you forget the sour taste its lesser parts leave in your mouth.
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