‘Lemon’ Squeezes Brazen, Unsettling Comedy from its Oddball Characters

Lemon

Comedian Brett Gelman has made a name for himself as bombastic, larger than life characters, including himself in Adult Swim’s Dinner with Friends with Brett Gelman and Friends. Now Gelman is front and center in Janicza Bravo’s feature film Lemon, which Gelman co-wrote with the director. Lemon is an unusual, abrasive work of art that defies Gelman’s regular persona with a quiet, tragic performance that emphasizes the malaise that has gripped his character. Janicza Bravo’s film isn’t a crowd-pleaser by any means, but it’s a fascinating character study of an individual stuck in neutral, employing a wry, subtle sense of humor that relies more on situations and gestures more than big punchlines.

Isaac (Gelman) is stuck in a rut in just about every way imaginable. He coaches a duo of actors (played by Michael Cera and Gillian Jacobs), though his own career as a performer is floundering. Sometimes Isaac goes out on auditions for various commercial work, such as a print ad where he’s the face of Hepatitis C. In his personal life, Isaac is finding his relationship with his longtime girlfriend Ramona (Judy Greer) is also going nowhere fast. Isaac also has a family that is in constant disarray, including his mother (Rhea Perlman) and father (Fred Melamed) as well as his pregnant sister Ruthie (Shiri Appleby). Despite whatever is circling around him at any given moment, Isaac is incapable of putting his life into gear and moving forward.

The reason that Lemon works on its own unusual wavelength is the combination of Brett Gelman’s insular performance and the sharp direction of Janicza Bravo. Gelman internalizes much of Isaac’s struggle, and yet the actor is able to convey the escalating unease of the character without uttering a word. As the film progresses and you see more and more of Isaac’s unlikable behavior, Gelman is able to bring a lot to the character without ever being show or flashing in the slightest. Brett Gelman is given ample help in the film with great supporting cast, which also includes Martin Starr and Nia Long, all of whom are people that seem to exist in the real world while Isaac simply lives in his own devolving world.

Janicza Bravo brings a shape visual style to Lemon, which features some excellently blocked shots that utilize every aspect of the frame. Few directors today, and especially on such a limited budget, are able to make the most of every shot be it the way in which the actors are framed or the startling use of color. Lemon isn’t a comedy that is overflowing with big laughs and sharp dialogue. Instead it’s a slowly building uncomfortable form of humor that relies on Isaac’s inability to be adequate in any regard, especially in social situations. Every aspect of that subtlety that is the sense of humor of Lemon is amplified by the way in which Bravo assembles the visual style of the film that requires you to pay close attention in order to discover the layers to the cringe-worthy humor on display.

Lemon doesn’t take the easy road in any aspect of its being. It’s a confrontational film willing to put the audience in a series of uncomfortable situations that only grow with each passing moment. In a lot of ways, Lemon reminds me of the borderline anti-comedy films of Rick Alverson, such as The Comedy and Entertainment, that play against the expectations of their comedic leads. This isn’t a raucous comedy that is going to play to a wide audience and it never even attempts to do so. Lemon is a visually sharp, thematically quiet work of ugly comedy featuring an incredibly ugly lead character. In the wrong hands, Lemon could be a repellant work. Thankfully, Janicza Bravo has a deft touch that makes the most of its abrasive style.

Shop Deadpool tees in our officially licensed Marvel store!

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Cartels
Steven Seagal Sleepwalks Through ‘Cartels’

Amazingly, there are some people still willing to pay Steven Seagal...

Leatherface 2017
‘Leatherface’ Delivers a Bloody Underwhelming Origin for a Horror Icon

For some reason there are those who think that everything has...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle
‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ Entertains Despite Pulling its Punches

Watching Kingsman: The Secret Service felt like you were witness to...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Nights of Azure 2
Koei Tecmo America Details Demon-Slaying Action For Nights Of Azure 2: Bride Of The New Moon

Survive the environments of Nights Of Azure 2: Bride of the...

SteelSeries North
SteelSeries Announces Partnership with FC Copenhagen, Nordisk Film and Their Top-Ranked Counter-Strike Team, North

Three of the Most Successful Danish Brands Team up to Accomplish...

Warriors All-Stars Review
7.0/10
It’s a KOEI TECMO Party – Warriors All-Stars Review [PS4]

Why are games that bring together characters from numerous other titles...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
viz
VIZ Media Announces New Digital Manga Content For August Update

VIZ Media details digital manga updates for August highlighted by the...

viz
VIZ Media Announces New Manga and Literary Acquisitions At Anime Expo

VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), a premier company in the fields of...

9.0/10
Supergirl Makes Contact in ‘Supergirl Being Super’

Title: Supergirl Being Super #4 Writer: Mariko Tamaki Artist: Joelle Jones...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
atari
New Atari 2600/Sega Genesis Systems from AtGames Now Available

Classic Gaming Lives Again with Release of New Atari 2600/Sega Genesis...

urban armor gear
New Urban Armor Gear Exo-Skeleton Case for Android Tablets

UAG creates an ingenious adjustable protective case for the toughest Android...

New Urban Armor Gear UAG Plasma Series LG V30 Case

Lightweight and slim, the UAG Plasma Series LG V30 Case provides...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Mayweather and McGregor Previous Fights Now On Demand on Cable, Plus Interviews, Workouts and More

From iN DEMAND – New York, Aug. 17 – Before the...

Rumble on the Water 2 Delivers Punching Power

July 29, 2017 – Long Beach, CA – The Queen Mary...

UFC Star Jon ‘Bones’ Jones Releases Emoji App – BonesMoji

From BonesMoji – Los Angeles, CA., July 27, 2017 – One...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
CULTURAL JUNK DRAWER SDCC 2017 86.3% TRUE RECAP!

A totally true recap of the most important geek cultural even...

Comics on the Can: Schick Hydrobot and the Transformers

Written by John Barber, Pencils by Steve Kurth, Inks by Juan...

Star Wars Themed Lands Will be the Perfect Safe House for the Rebellion and the First Order

Disney’s D23 Expo has revealed a lot of what is to...

Event News Event Reviews
The Third Annual ‘BeerX’ from 91X in San Diego Featured Sunburns and Beer Goggles

This past Saturday, I attended the 3rd annual BeerX, presented by...

anime film festival
LA-Anime Film Festival Kicks Off to Celebrate 100 Years of Anime Films

Los Angeles Anime Film Festival (LA-AFF), presented by international creative company...

stan lee
Extraordinary: Stan Lee at The Saban Theatre

Comedian, Nerdist CEO, and podcast extraordinaire Chris Hardwick will lead a roster of...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming.

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Lahna Turner’s ‘Limeade’ is a Hilariously Haunting Comedy Album

Many people are roll their eyes at the idea of musical...

Prince’s ‘Deliverance’ Reminds Us of Who We Lost

On Friday, April 21st, it will be one year since we...

Sabroso Fest, How can you go Wrong with Beer, Tacos and Lucha Libre!?!(Photo Gallery)

The Sabroso Craft Beer, Taco and Music Festival sponsored by 95.5...