The actor’s life… it isn’t an easy one and it isn’t a life that can be avoided. In truth, it pretty much sucks but is punctuated by moments of transcendent joy; it is institutionalized manic-depression. And, if you are hooked, you wouldn’t have it any other way… in fact, you couldn’t.
There is a lot to this film, as simple as it appears. Much is inferred and some is a bit of inside baseball. In fact, the provocative title alone should indicate that to you… even if it means something entirely different than you might expect. First-time director Lee Wilkof attacked Sandler’s feature-length script (also a first) with the love and understanding of a long-time actor. It is uncomfortably true at times, especially if you have ever lived the life.
Gabriel Byrne (Vampire Academy) drives the tale along with a triumvirate of pals in Frances Conroy (Ira & Abby), Nathan Lane (Mirror Mirror), and a young Jon Michael Hill (Elementary). Donna Murphy (True Blood) also has a good catalytic role to play. Imagine Diner but in the Actor’s Equity lounge and you have a sense of the story, even if that is an imperfect reference.
However, overall there is an odd structure to the result that I would bet was a cutting room addition. Lane’s voiceover provides wry commentary and explanation that begins a little into the film and closes it. I suspect Wilkof didn’t think the intent was coming across and enlisted Lane to provide the context. Whether true or not, it felt rather bolted on and distracting to me. But, of course, I’m his target audience, not the broader appeal he was hoping to reach.
There is a great joy and a humor to the movie, despite some of its darker moments. It is a reminder that possibilities are often the results of our own choices and that success definitely is. That doesn’t mean that luck and fate or chance and randomness don’t play a role of their own, but you have to know what to do with opportunities that come your way, however long they may take to arrive. And, perseverance in this industry is sometimes a reasonable tactic… you don’t have to run faster than the bear, you only have to run faster and longer than the person next to you. It’s a lot easier to do that if you are motivated for where you’re trying to go rather than just running from what you don’t want to happen. That’s a subversion of the point of the film, to an extent, but it does play its part.
As a total aside, Blue Pearl Vet Hospital is featured at the top of the film, and not in the best light. Having used them in the past (more than once) for emergencies, I have to say they are really great. At least the one I use is. Hated to see them shown as not very compassionate or capable (so not my experience) and wanted to provide a vote for them here.
This is ultimately a feel-good film, though not necessarily a triumphant one for the characters. The goal is to love what you do and do what you love. Sometimes that brings fame and fortune and sometimes it just brings joy. If you’re really, really lucky, it brings both.