Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Kvetching Towards a Comeback: They’re Out of the Business

It is a tough business. One day you have one of the top five films in Trinidad and Tabago, the next day F. Murray Abraham won’t take your meeting. Nobody understands this better than Splick Featherstone and Jason Little, the co-writers-co-directors-co-stars of the early 1990’s indie breakout My Life's in Turnaround, played by Eric Schaeffer and Donal Lardner Ward, the co-writers-co-directors-co-stars of the early 1990’s indie breakout My Life's in Turnaround. As one might expect, the kvetching and indie in-jokes come fast and furious in their self-referential sequel They’re Out of the Business (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York at the IFC Center.

The last time Featherstone and Little were together, they were in court. Unfortunately, going their separate ways has not worked out swimmingly for them. Featherstone’s awful sounding television show has been cancelled, while Little has resigned himself to his failure as a novelist. Desperately hoping for a career Hail Mary, Featherstone pitches Little a follow-up to Turnaround. He will take some convincing, but he grudgingly starts hanging out again with his hyper-active partner, against his better judgment.

Like “plastics” in The Graduate, Featherstone’s agent drops the word “webisode” on Featherstone before giving him the boot as a client. He might be onto something. Schaeffer and Ward actually establish a good bickering-bantering rhythm between them. However, their material is somewhat hit or miss within the decidedly episodic structure of Business. Perhaps, the brevity of the format would better suit their strengths.

Indeed, Schaeffer and Ward play off each other rather well, often getting knowing laughs at their own expense. While Delores McDougal has some nice moments as Featherstone’s mother, the rest of the cast is rather forgettable (almost anonymous, in fact). The once-and-future partners deserve credit for handling the midlife maturation themes with a light touch. Still, here is a question for the women reading out there: would you ever like to see a pseudo-rom-com where the men are already grown-up adults? Consider that rhetorical.

Though it has an adult sensibility, Business’s quiet, unassuming style frankly works better than the indie industry standard. Pleasant enough as a brief distraction, but never very deep, Business opens tomorrow (4/6) at the IFC Center.