Quick synopsis: The cast and crew of a blockbuster action franchise attempt to shoot a film while quarantining at a posh hotel
I don’t think I trust Apatow as a writer anymore. The last thing of his I really enjoyed was Trainwreck, and that was something he directed, didn’t write. Other than that, lately, his stuff just seems like it’s all just deleted scenes from other movies. Funny People was far far too long, This Is 40 just seemed kind of cruel, and a lot of times his characters are unsympathetic. Plus he casts like he’s still a young up-and-comer, casting his friends and family whenever he can. I do wish Apatow would stop casting his family members in major roles. I get he wants to see them in it, and he can trust them easily. But I don’t think Iris Apatow was the best choice as one of the main cast. I’m not saying that being Apatow’s daughter is what caused her to get the role, but I have a feeling it was. I really don’t get how she was the best option for the role. Especially when Maria Bakalova was cast in the film in a smaller role. An ensemble-cast film like this means you can’t have any weak links, and having someone as inexperienced as her alongside performers like Karen Gillan, Pedro Pascal, and Keegan-Michael Key just makes her inexperience stand out even more.
But maybe Judd Apatow’s writing saves this? Nope. The whole thing feels like a first draft. It’s really weirdly paced. You’ll have a two-minute scene set during the day, then a short one set at night, and then another one set in the day. It’s just weird and means you don’t get a good grounding of time passing. Time passes so quickly that you don’t really get that feeling of suffocation. It also repeats itself, as well as repeating itself, and worse of all; it repeats itself. There’s a montage of the characters in the second quarantine where some are just drinking and doing drugs, some are going crazy with the quarantine, and some are learning lines. It kind of feels like it should have been shown during the first quarantine section. Would have been a good introduction to the characters, as it is, it’s just confirming personalities we’ve already seen. It’s a repeating of a situation we’ve already seen, and it’s not entertaining to see it again that long into the film. It’s like the whole plot has been brought back to the start. The way that montage ends is weird too, it doesn’t have a definitive end, just cuts to a scene of characters talking, so it makes it seem like those characters are breaking the isolation bubble. It would be very in character for them to do so, and they actually do that, sneaking out (in a scene which either didn’t happen or if it did, was very forgettable).
That’s not the only montage btw, there are quite a few of them, and most of them are pretty bad. It feels like the film is trying to aim itself at the TikTok crowd. It’s trying SO hard to be young and “hip”, that it just comes off like it’s as old-fashioned as someone in their 30s who still uses the word “hip”. Maybe that was done because montages are good ways to show characters quickly, and this film has so many characters that juggling them is difficult. It fails at that, btw. Most of the characters are ridiculously underdeveloped. It doesn’t help that we only see them at their worst, so we don’t really get a sense of who they are. They’re not helped by the dialogue they’re given. “you remember the reviews from your last film Jerusalem Rising”. That is a terrible sentence because it just feels really fake. I don’t think you’d mention the film title, or you’d mention just that. You’d say either “you remember the reviews from your last film”, OR “you remember the reviews from Jerusalem Rising”, it’s weird they mention both. Feels fake. It’s just blatant exposition, and it’s terrible that it’s one of the first lines in the film.
The film also starts with the hotel staff being briefed. They’re the best parts of the film, and if it was focused more on them it would be a better film. It would allow us to see the Hollywood lifestyle from the outside, and get a better view of the madness. As it is, the Hollywood stars are the main characters, so it feels too much like rich people watching other rich people. It’s incredibly toothless as a satire of film-making. It’s the film equivalent of government-approved satire. It doesn’t have a point to make, it’s just surface-level jokes.
On the plus side, I did get a kick out of a character being called Bola, mainly because I called a character that in a script and it’s nice to see a name like that used by actual filmmakers. Most of the cast are good, and the central idea is fine. It also does a good job of setting up the fictional franchise. It has moments where the potential shines through, but they’re quite rare. Really the main issue is one bad piece of casting, and a bad script. So that’s ALL Apatow. If he was replaced, and everything else the same (the casting, the concept etc), it would have the potential to be one of the best of the year. As it is? Bitterly disappointing. Oh, it also has a really awkwardly funny moment with Beck singing a song about dinosaurs. And a Miley Cyrus cover of Blondie.