Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

19 April, 2010

WFF '10: Harmony and Me



I bought a ticket for Harmony and Me based on the review given it by UW film prof J.J. Murphy. In it he says, "Yet if I were to pick one indie film of the past year that I would jump at the chance to see over and over again, it would be Harmony and Me…"

The movie is a comedy which follows the trials and tribulations of Harmony, a 20-something guy who has recently broken up with the lovely Jessica. There's not much of a plot to be had here and it is instead a series of vignettes of Harmony dealing with family, having his friends try to help him over his loss, and the odd brief encounter with his ex. Justin Rice plays Harmony and he makes the character a self-centered sad sack who seems little different from many of the people who surround him. He constantly bleats "She broke my heart, but she’s still at it" while his mother is diagnosed with cancer and his boss is given but one day to live.

I did not find Harmony's slacker misadventures funny and I think I was the only person in the audience who felt this way. Not once did I laugh, although I smiled a couple times. By far the funniest moment was near the beginning when Jessica is talking to a friend of hers on the phone. She tells her that, while she and Harmony had dated for about a year, she knew it was over by 9 months in and got a leg up on the grieving process by starting while they were still dating. And while I felt the comic timing of the movie was good, I simply just didn't find much humor to be had which was worth laughing about.

Harmony's boss is a jerk and at one point makes a comment that he likes his women young. And so at Brad's funeral Harmony says a few words about his former employer and concludes by shouting that the guy was a paedophile before storming off. This got big laughs from the audience but I found it puerile and distasteful. Similarly, one of Harmony's friends, Mike(?), is in a loveless marriage and scenes at Mike's house invariably involve him berating his wife mercilessly until tears begin to flow. Again, not funny yet these scenes got big laughs.

The only redeeming feature to be had is how Harmony begins taking piano lessons and pieces together a song over the course the movie. It was (vaguely) poignant and provided something akin to a narrative thread.

Despite really wanting to like Harmony and Me I ended up feeling like director Bob Byington tried way too hard to create a childish movie and ended up succeeding. I mean this literally. While I like things crass, this movie was something my 10-year old stepson would probably fall over laughing at. I mean, I like The Three Stooges but this just gave shallow and insulting a bad name.

Byington gave a post-screening Q&A in which he gave some good info on production but he put me off. He came across as a really droll, self-important hipster, not unlike Harmony, so I can at least partly understand why I thought the movie was so bad.
|| Palmer, 3:52 PM

2 Comments:

I am so happy to read your comments. I stood for an hour in the rush line to get in, based on the summary in the film guide. I didn't actively dislike it when I was watching it, but I just didn't care at all, and I didn't find it funny. I am sure there were at least some who did, but I felt more like the people around where I was sitting were all like...hmm, everyone else thinks this is funny, and I must just not be getting the joke.

I got out of there before the Q&A, but one local blogger described the session with the filmmakers as "reverse-heckling."

Charming.

I didn't actually appreciate the entirely intentional irony of the speech midway through where the girlfriend says "Do you ever get halfway through watching a movie and discover that you don't care about the characters?"

Why, yes. Was this an admission that making me not give a shit was intentional? I hope this is not some new, pretentious style in filmmaking...that part where they make me not care.

I had another bad experience based on the film guide this year, too. I went to see Cooking History, a documentary about military cooks. Despite the military subjects, the guide description made it sound more like a culinary travelogue you'd see on the Food Network, and repeatedly described it as humorous. It was a darned good movies with a few structural flaws, but it was nothing like it was described. It was very dense, and unrelentingly sad, as one war vet after another told some trauma-ridden story about battles and hunger, and the documentarians showed numerous scenes of battles.

The last story in the film was one of the most touching things I'd seen on film, a man recounting the death by drowning of all his friends on the submarine where he was the cook. The guide described this scene was funny.

I'll be taking all the descriptions with much more skepticism next year.
Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:42 AM  
I'm glad I'm not the only one who didn't find this movie to be funny.

As for Cooking History, I really loved it.

http://powervoyeur.blogspot.com/2010/04/wff-10-cooking-history.html

I have to agree with you on some of the descriptions in the film guide and certainly with CH. I am forced to wonder who wrote that bit about the U-Boat cook scene. Also, I didn't find the humor in the film to be front and center either. It's like the person who wrote it didn't actually see it and instead took notes from someone who did and only focused on the humor.
Blogger Palmer, at 9:20 AM  

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