Ode to Joy: Rom-com lacking in laughs

Morena Baccarin as “Francesca” and Martin Freeman as “Charlie” in Jason Winer's Ode to Joy. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films Release.

Ode to Joy makes sure that its two leads have chemistry between them but as far as the laughs go, they feel like they’re few and far between.

Brooklyn librarian Charlie (Martin Freeman) suffers from cataplexy.  What this means for the New York Mets fan–based on clothing choices–is that he is paralyzed by the feeling of joy.  Consequently, this means that something as small as the act of finding love results in paralysis.  Because of this, Charlie makes sure that no person, place, or thing can cause such emotion in his life.  Even cute puppies are out!  This includes events, too…which makes it a wonder why he even attends a wedding at the start of the movie.  In spite of everything, Francesca (Morena Baccarin) somehow manages to fall for Charlie anyway following a breakup at the library.  The idea of love will certainly not come easy but time will only tell if they’ll be a perfect match for each other.

Martin Freeman and Morena Baccarin are both capable performers.  The same goes for TV veterans Jake Lacy and Melissa Rauch.  All of them know their stuff and this goes without saying.  My problem with this film is less with them but more so with the film in and of itself.  Because of the actors involved, I wanted to like the film.  At the end of the day, I just felt like there was something lacking and mostly it came down to a lack of laughter.

Whether a comedy is mainstream or independent, there’s no way to tell if they’re working when you watch a film by itself.  I’ve said this time and time before but it’s hard to know where to laugh when you can’t bounce off the energy within a crowd.  This is one of the problems in watching the Jason Winer-directed romantic comedy.  While Netflix has largely made sure that the genre hasn’t died, other rom-coms are still popping up here and then from different studios.  When a film is a laugh riot, those laughs will certainly not be missed.  The thing about comedy–at least coming from my background in improv–is that they’re not meant to be watched alone.  Would this film have been appealing if it were viewed with a crowd?  Maybe but I can’t really say.

The whole idea of this kind of relationship feels better suited for a drama more so than a comedy.  But for a romantic comedy, the whole idea brings such a unique approach to the genre.  We certainly have not seen a rom-com tackle this–at least not that I can recall.  Yes, there were some funny moments in the film but honestly, they feel so few and far between.  Someone’s disability should not be the cause of laughter.  Yet–at times–this seems to be where Max Werner’s screenplay wants to go.

Ode to Joy starts out strong but a different tone starts to show up between start and finish.

DIRECTOR:  Jason Winer
CAST:  Martin Freeman, Morena Baccarin, Jake Lacy, Melissa Rauch, Shannon Woodward, Hayes MacArthur, Adam Shapiro, Jackie Seiden, and Jane Curtain

IFC Films opens Ode to Joy in theaters, Digital, and VOD on August 9, 2019. Grade: 2/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.