Friday, 5 October 2012

LFF: Grassroots Review

Director: Stephen Gyllenhaal

Writers Stephen Gyllenhaal, Justin Rhodes

Cast: Joel David Moore, Jason Biggs, Lauren Ambrose, Cobie Smulders, Christopher McDonald, Tom Arnold, Cedric the Entertainer

Plot: Revolving around two friends, one who has recently been fired from his job, Phil (Biggs) and the other who has plans to run for Seattle City Council, Grant (Moore). Deciding to help his friend, Phil forgets about looking for new work and sets about helping run Grant's campaign.

The name Jason Biggs doesn’t hold the connotation of Hollywood star; it is more “Apple Pie fornicator”. And speaking of differentiating labels, Bigg’s latest film, Grassroots, should barely qualify under the genre “Comedy”. There is far too much drama and some strange jokes that leave it without a proper classification. The film has clearly been influenced by the hundreds of underdog stories, especially those focusing on political campaigns, but fails to use that model effectively.

The story is said to revolve mostly around Jason Bigg’s Phil Campbell, a recently-fired journalist who plans to help out his friend Grant Cogswell (played by Joel David Moore) run for Seattle City Council. But it is the latter who should earn the top-credit as we see much from Moore in terms of acting, narrative influence and authority; another mistake in part of film’s promotion.

Perhaps in Seattle (maybe branching out to the general US) this film would have some important and affecting standing but for audiences in the UK and abroad it seems dull. The entirety of the film revolves around a small election for a relatively lacklustre position – gaining no real momentum from beginning to end; the film is a bore to watch.

Biggs and co (or, rather, Moore and co) are not terrible in the film, but they are working with material that is. Looking at the cast list at the start of the movie’s credits (Cobie Smulders, Tom Arnold, Christopher MacDonald and Cedric the Entertainer) you come to believe the film might be of some worth not to be completely overrun with new actors unable to find better projects. Nevertheless, those that join Biggs and Moore get barely any screen time and any real flesh to their character (even though some of these people must have been around to provide some weight to the characterisation) resulting in Biggs and Moore trying to pull the film off by themselves.

Moore is often the more interesting to watch but any likability comes only at the end when he decides to befriend his opponent (Cedric the Entertainer) who has so-far been perceived as a “bastard” but has no discernible qualities to support that description (he is perhaps the most likeable in the film, and with only 10-20 minutes of screentime).

The blandness of the piece means you cannot connect with any character and the writer and director’s willingness to add in a few quirky county folk to the ensemble just degrades the film further. However much of this story was true, the point of interest is lost way back when Phil is initially fired from his journalist job and nothing momentous happens to redeem the film in any shape or form.

Grassroots boils down to a low-grade piece of filmmaking that is trying to become an indie/cult classic. Perhaps for some it will become such a film, but you can bet it will send a lot of the general public off to sleep.

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on LiveforFilms

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