A writer travels home to Cleveland in The Good Half, where he must confront the recent death of his mother amidst family drama.
Grief has a way of resonating differently with people. My parents are still alive but I’ve lost grandparents–some of their deaths hurt more than others but that’s another story for another day. How people respond to death–or not–in this film is what drives the story forward, let alone the family drama.
Because of its cast, The Good Half was near the top of the list for my most anticipated films playing Tribeca this year. Suffice it to say, the film lived to to my expectations. It’s a dramedy in which screenwriter Brett Ryland draws on his own experiences in writing the script while director Robert Schwartzman brings the vision to the screen. They have similar experiences in losing a parent to the same cancer. It’s something that one might not be able to make sense of at the time but work out their feelings in a cathartic way. In this case, the catharsis comes through in a film that delivers a showcase of performances.
Renn Wheeland (Nick Jonas) is a writer. When we first meet him, he is flying back home to Cleveland for his mother’s funeral. This is where he meets another passenger, Zoey Abbott (Alexandra Shipp), who is Cleveland-bound for a conference. Ryland’s screenplay opts to go for flashbacks with Renn’s mother, Lily (Elisabeth Shue), whenever memories are triggered. Anyway, this trip home brings no shortage of drama between him and his sister, Leigh (Brittany Snow), while father Darren (Matt Walsh) wants to reconnect. Renn and Leigh’s relationship will heal in time but for right now, they’re taking it moment by moment. The dark horse in the room is step-father Rick Barona (David Arquette).
Because Renn had spent so much time avoiding the inevitable, he ends up missing out on some of the funeral planning. For one, Renn’s Jewish mother will have a reverend or priest delivering the eulogy. One can see the anger in Renn almost immediately. But again, Renn wasn’t there to say goodbye or anything. No, it was Leigh and Rick having to carry the burden. You can see their sense of resentment at Renn not being there. But again, he was choosing to not deal with it in his own way.
There’s a scene in the film where Zoey invites Renn to join her and friends at a karaoke night. Thankfully, the filmmakers allow Nick Jonas to sing a song because it would have been a letdown otherwise. It’s one of those scenes where you keep asking, is he going to sing? Obviously, Nick Jonas is here for the acting showcase but one can appreciate that they built in this moment of fan service.
This is a film that contains a solid mixture of comedy and drama in the film. You could be laughing one moment and on the verge of tears in the next. For a film in which one character confronts his mother’s death, I wasn’t expecting to be laughing THAT much. But hey, when you cast veteran comedian Matt Walsh in a movie, I automatically assume that there will be laughter at some point. There are scenes where that I won’t spoil but I was howling with laughter.
The entire cast delivers in their performances. David Arquette goes full asshole in the film! Brittany Snow does an amazing job with her performance. It’s so different seeing her with a darker hair color that I almost didn’t even recognize the Pitch Perfect star at first. Snow has been crushing it for years and I can’t wait to see Parachute for that reason alone.
The Good Half walks a fine line in dealing with grief and humor but the end result is a film that one can resonate with.
DIRECTOR: Robert Schwartzman
SCREENWRITER: Brett Ryland
CAST: Nick Jonas, Brittany Snow, David Arquette, Alexandra Shipp, Matt Walsh, and Elisabeth Shue
The Good Half held its world premiere during the 2023 Tribeca Festival in the Spotlight Narrative section. Grade: 3.5/5
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