When they learn that their best friend is dying from Covid-19, a pair of filmmakers document their journey in Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying.
I’m not sure which genre this film falls into because it certainly isn’t a documentary. In fact, the film makes its Tribeca premiere in the Narrative Competition. I went into this film wanting to like it after hearing positive reactions from friends in the film industry. However, I’m falling somewhere in the middle and that’s probably because of what happens during the film’s final act. When you lose family members to Covid-19, films like this start hitting people in a very different way. I’m sorry to say it but this film just isn’t funny.
I went into this film without the knowledge that it was a pandemic movie. It isn’t just that it’s a pandemic movie but the film starts out with a series of Zoom calls and a Cameo from actor Mark Duplass. D’Arcy Carden is good in the film, don’t get me wrong, but The Good Place star is barely even in the film. Both Carden and Duplass appear in what I would call a glorified cameo. If you’re watching the film just for those two actors, you’re going to be disappointed.
The first thing that Parker Seaman and Devin Das do in this film is buy Wes a Cameo message from Mark Duplass. It’s this message that soon sets the two filmmakers on their way to making their own film on a road trip. In order to make the journey, they turn to Craigslist for a camera, etc. Before you know it, they buy a van that would fit right in if you were watching Little Miss Sunshine. In essence, they want to make the next great independent film in America. Whether they did or not is really up to the audience that’s watching. All audiences are subjective to say the least.
I’m sure there’s a better film to be made about road trips and DIY filmmaking but this one isn’t it. It’s one thing to make a pandemic movie but it’s another to make a pandemic movie without telling us you’re making a pandemic movie. This film clearly falls into the former, what with the Zoom calls, masks, and all. There are a bit of laughs here but it’s not really enough. There are many times in viewing the film where one is watching a toxic friendship playing out on the screen. Making matters worse is when one of the characters threatens to jump out the window and kill themselves. Suicide just isn’t funny. As a side note, when it comes to discussing the film’s third act, I’m not even sure what is and isn’t a spoiler to tell you the truth.
Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying is a sign that maybe it is time to stop making comedies set during the pandemic.
EDIT: It’s possible that I needed to watch this film with an audience. But in watching from home, it just didn’t hit me all that well.
DIRECTOR: Parker Seaman
SCREENWRITERS: Devin Das & Parker Seaman
CAST: Devin Das, Parker Seaman, Wes Schlagenhauf, Aparna Nancherla, with D’Arcy Carden and Mark Duplass
Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying holds its world premiere during the 2022 Tribeca Festival in the U.S. Narrative Competition. Grade: 2.5/5
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