Tag Archives: Billy Crystal

Here Today

The Premise: Charlie is a comedy writer of some renown, having started out on the Carol Burnett show, now serving out the remainder of his career writing for his protégé’s sketch show. Street singer Emma comes into his life at a strange life – dementia is slowly destroying not only his memory, but his sense of self. With his wife long dead, and his children somewhat estranged every since, Emma is a unique bridge between their generations, forming a cherished friendship just when he needs one most.

The Verdict: I liked this film, though I do have some reservations. Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish are both quite good – he solid as ever, she toned down just enough to exist on his wave length, yet still maintaining her own brand and style of comedy. Though this film brought them close in real life, their chemistry doesn’t always work on screen. Worse still, the dialogue is sometimes unforgivably clunky and trite. Yet there’s just something magnet about Crystal here. He is staring down a fate many of us would consider worse than death. The title itself reminds us of the stakes: Here Today (gone tomorrow) – and yet both the film and Charlie face this inevitability with light-heartedness and warmth. The important part, the part that helped me overcome the film’s flaws, is that though he may be gone tomorrow – in fact, we all may – he is still here today, and today is to be enjoyed.

The Comedian

Jackie (Robert DeNiro) played a beloved sitcom character at the very beginning of his career, and it seems his fans only want to remember him for that one thing. He’s a stand-up comic now, desperate to rebrand himself, but audiences turn nasty the further he pulls away from his more iconic stuff. So in the style of hot-headed comedians, he allows a heckling fan to draw him into a fight, and of course it’s Jackie who winds up sentenced to community service (among other things).

At the soup kitchen, he meets fellow assaulter Harmony (Leslie Mann), an otherwise 2-h_2016docile woman who is pushed to do violence when she finds her man in bed with another woman. This unlikely pair bonds over their mutual sentence, and agree to do each other a solid: she’ll attend his niece’s wedding with him – he owes money to his brother (Danny DeVito) and his sister-in-law (Patti LuPone) never quits breaking his balls – and he’ll attend a birthday dinner for her disapproving father (Harvey Keitel).

After decades as an insult comic, Jackie is looking to reinvent himself, but the people in his life keep him from doing so. DeNiro trained with real-life comic Jessica Kirson, who also appears in the movie. DeNiro adopts one of her signature moves, in which she whispers to herself while turned away from the audience. Lots of other comedians lend an air of authenticity to Jackie’s world: Brett Butler, Billy Crystal, Jim Norton, Gilbert Gottfried, Hannibal Buress, and more. Unfortunately, the comedy is just about all this movie gets right. I’m not even sure what kind of movie it’s supposed to be: some sort of May-December rom-com? Aging comedian comes of age? Light social commentary?

It doesn’t matter because it doesn’t work on any level. It feels dated, immediately. Cringe-worthy at times. It’s bloated, meandering, and has some pretty bizarre and inexplicable subplots over which I’m still scratching my head. It’s misguided. It’s tired. It has its charming moments but then there’s also a song about poop so I’m just not in a forgiving mood. DeNiro’s choices lately are a betrayal to his talent. Remember him as he was, not as he appears in this stinker.