Once Charlie Burns (Billy Crystal) was great: he was one of the most famous authors. His plays were staged in the best theaters, according to his scripts, famous directors staged films in which star actors played.
But this is all in the past. Charlie is now in his seventies and works as a consultant for the “Hot Hot” show on cable. And although, let’s be honest, Charlie’s contribution to the show is quite small, but the show’s producer Larry (Charlie Pollock) really appreciates Burns, who also helped Larry a lot in his time to take his first steps in this business, so Larry categorically declares to the troupe that while he’s producing this show, Charlie will be working as a consultant here.
Charlie’s wife Carrie (Luis Krause) died a long time ago in a car accident, Burns sees his son Rex (Penn Badgley) weekly, but the writer has a rather complicated and strained relationship with his daughter Francine (Laura Benanti) after the death of his wife.
During another visit to the doctor, Charlie found out that he was starting senile dementia. The disease progresses quite quickly: Charlie periodically forgets names and sometimes can’t even remember what he just ate for lunch. However, Charlie does not say anything about his illness to his children.
At some point, Charlie went to lunch with a man who had won a lunch with a writer at a charity auction. It turns out to be a forty-year-old black woman named Emma Page (Tiffany Haddish). She admits that she has no idea who Charlie is, and that her ex won the dinner at the auction, whom she thus decided to punish for treason.
The dinner didn’t quite go as planned, and as a result, Charlie and Emma developed a kind of friendship: they somehow begin to help each other.
While watching this film, two other, very recent pictures immediately appear in my head: “Standup for Life”, where Billy Crystal plays a cheerful and hard-drinking dermatologist, with whom his son does not want to communicate, and “Father” with the brilliant Anthony Hopkins, which tells the story of an octogenarian man with progressive senile dementia. But, by the way, “Father” is a very powerful drama, superbly staged and played, and “Here and Now” is much closer in style to “Standupper for Life”, because it is such a pretty, but little pretending tragicomedy.
I watched this movie with great pleasure. It’s basically a pure project of Billy Crystal, who is also a co-writer here (along with Alan Zweibel: he’s mostly a serial writer, but Alan also wrote the script for Rob Reiner’s cute romantic melodrama The Story of Us, which starred Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer), both director and lead actor.
The picture turned out pretty. Billy Crystal is always good at playing characters like this. His Charlie is very charming and touching at times. He jokes funny, wins people over, but at the same time, Crystal shows well the waves of horror that roll over Charlie when he forgets the simplest things or super-famous names (there is a scene where Charlie forgets the name Sharon Stone, and talking with her on scene; I note, by the way, that in the same scene, Barry Levinson, and Kevin Kline, and Sharon Stone played themselves, although I thought they were just some kind of actors in disguise) or when flashbacks from a past life appear in front of him (and the doctor warned him about this).
Also well shown is the terrible moral trauma that Charlie received after the death of his wife Carrie, and this death led to the fact that Charlie’s daughter practically does not communicate with him.
Actress Tiffany Haddish in the role of Emma Page liked. According to the script, she was initially forced to portray a kind of stereotypical and almost caricature African-American woman with a very characteristic demeanor and appropriate phrases, but after Emma and Charlie began something like a friendship, Emma’s character became much less caricatured, and Tiffany Emma played really well : interesting, vital, charismatic, and in some moments she was quite touching. And the actress fit well into such a restrained style of this film, otherwise I was afraid that her character would be shown in the worst traditions of American modern comedies. But this, fortunately, did not happen.
Of the rest of the actors (rather little-known, because the film is clearly low-budget), I really liked Laura Benanti, who played Charlie’s daughter, who does not want to communicate with her father (she has reasons for this), and Andrew Duran, who played screenwriter Darell, who seems to be about to be kicked out, however, Charlie sees potential in the kid and gradually Darell starts to get something.
The whole picture is quite even, pretty and, so to speak, moody. However, in my opinion, they clearly missed the ending, which reduced all the complex and rather tragic family relationships shown in the film to the primitive “everyone forgave everyone, everyone cries and hugs” – this somewhat spoiled the impression, because the picture itself did not was not primitive, but quite the contrary.
However, although the ending somewhat spoiled the impression, nevertheless, I think that the film itself turned out to be very good: simple, funny, touching, showing a good story and at the same time telling about important things. Well written, well acted and well directed. It seems nothing special, but left a very pleasant impression.
Here and Now / Here Today review
Director: Billy Crystal Cast: Billy Crystal, Tiffany Haddish, Penn Badgley, Laura Benanti, Luisa Krause, Chad Jennings, Deirdre Friel, Alex Brightman, Matthew Broussard, Max Gordon Moore, Charlie Pollock
Tragicomedy, USA, 2021, 117 min.