Lemon is Awkwardly Charming, so Grab Some Matzoh Balls and Read Up

Lemon (2017) Poster for the Film

Written by Tristan Olav Torgersen
Originally posted on IndieEntertainmentMagazine.com
September 9, 2017

Los Angeles. Love. Aspiring actors. Family. Friendship. A Million Matzoh Balls. Lemon is a quaint and quizzical film that holds your attention as quickly as it distracts.

Director Janicza Bravo and actor Brett Gelman deliver a film in Lemon so odd that it is spellbinding. So outlandish that it hurts at times. And yet, you feel drawn in by the feeling of the film.

Brett Gelman plays Isaac, an acting instructor whose prowess feels more feigned than real. His student he attempts to befriend Alex, played by Michael Cera, is equally eccentric in his own way. Their friendship feels so forced that you almost get feeling sorry for Isaac. Almost.

Throughout Lemon, Brett Gelman’s performance continues to irk the audience. His attitude, his obliviousness to his own flaws, and his failures caught me wondering a few times, “Why are we even following his story?”

This may be Bravo’s intention though. In Isaac, she has crafted a character filled with unsettling mannerisms and a lack of resolution. Brought to life by Gelman, Isaac’s life falls apart on screen. His vision-impaired girlfriend wants to take a break. His attempts at acting end up in medical commercials or with being turned away. The friendship in Alex is destined to fail.

Bravo supplements the misshapen story with dynamics that I hadn’t caught until halfway through the film. Lemon was filmed exclusively on location in Los Angeles, and the city is as much a character as Isaac himself. The homes covered in stucco and clay are centerpieces of visually aesthetic shots accompanying phone calls. LA is the city of a single season, of sunshine and traffic, and of dream chasers.

The music of the film carries it through each scene, movement, and act. It plays a role similar to the city in that it puts a certain audible madness to the melodrama on screen.

The film left me thinking about life, where I was headed, who I associated with, and why. That may just be Bravo’s point: to have no point. The Passover Seder scene is befitting of any dreadful family get together. The relationship problems are exaggerated, yet relatable in some way. Bravo delivers something beautiful, something weird, something underwhelming.

In all its peculiarity and normalness, you will find Lemon is a gem of a film.

Check out the Website here and Find a Showtime Near You.

The film is directed by Janicza Bravo and stars Brett Gelman, Judy Greer, Michael Cera, Nia Long, and you can find the Full Cast Here.