There aren’t many things tougher to sit through than bad comedy. Over the years countless funny people have made bad comedies. It’s just something that happens to talented people. Sometimes bad comedy is caused by a premise that stretched out far past its comedic potential. Other times it’s the more nefarious type of humor that aims to exploit the powerless through crude characterizations. 3rd Street Blackout, the comedy written, directed, and starring Negin Farsad and Jeremy Redleaf, falls into the category of the former, as it’s a comedy that attempts to tackle some relationship drama set against the backdrop of the blackouts caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 without much comedic potency. 3rd Street Blackout is a woefully uneven film from comedy filmmakers who’ve yet to find their sure-footing in the most difficult of genres.
When we first see Mina (Farsad) and Rudy (Redleaf), the couple are exchanging text messages about moving in together before it’s revealed that they’re within mere feet of each other. The film then flashes forward a year and the loving couple is now in the throes of discord, with questions swirling as to whether or not Mina has been faithful. The film then flashes back – this ping-ponging with time will be a constant issue throughout the film – three days to Mina giving her own TED Talk in Long Beach, California about her work as a neuroscientist. Meanwhile, Rudy is in the midst of a hack-a-thon competition with his team competing for a chance to win $5,000 in seed money for whatever tech startup they desire. After her TED Talk, Mina starts discussions with the billionaire Nathan Blonket (Ed Weeks) about funding her research, which takes an awkward turn back at his hotel room. Did Mina cheat or not? That’s a question to be answered in the dark over the course of a few days following Hurricane Sandy’s destructive tour of New York City.
The biggest comedic issue facing 3rd Street Blackout is that Farsad and Redleaf are counting entirely on the dialogue for laughs. There’s no attempt to make the situations that the characters are in funny and letting the dialogue accentuate that. Instead, they’re simply counting on a well-placed F-bomb to coax laughter, and that just isn’t working here. It’s unfortunate the attempts to by the filmmakers to include commentary on modern relationships and our overreliance on technology repeated fall flat. 3rd Street Blackout is the kind of movie that possibly would’ve worked best a 30-minute short, not a 90-minute feature.
A number of typically reliable comedic talents make brief appearances in the film, yet none of them are capable of elevating the underwhelming material. John Hodgman and Janeane Garofalo make one-scene appearances each, though neither is able to earn anything aside from a modest chuckle. The same is true of the stand-up Rachel Feinstein, who appears as a friend during a meandering party scene that runs on for far too long.
Then there are a number of pointless subplots that only serve to pad out the running time, including one where Mina goes on a hunt for insulin for her older neighbor (played by Phyllis Somerville) which leads her to a confrontation with someone charging five dollars for five minutes of cell phone charging. In a tighter, more disciplined movie this might actually be a funny scene, but here it takes place in the middle of the relationship strife between the two leads and has absolutely no bearing on the film’s central story. It’s entirely indicative of the kind of problems that explain why 3rd Street Blackout doesn’t work.
Hopefully 3rd Street Blackout is merely a hiccup on the ascent for Negin Farsad and Jeremy Redleaf. The two aren’t bad actors and show a capacity for good timing. But their writing and direction of a feature length film leaves a lot to be desired. The film’s use of flashbacks is thoroughly bewildering, employed not as a storytelling device but only as a means to stretch out the story to requisite 90 minutes. Modestly amusing banter isn’t a substitute for actual jokes and funny situations, yet that’s all 3rd Street Blackout has to lean on.
3rd Street Blackout
A comedy lacking in solid jokes, 3rd Street Blackout is dim on laughter and cinematic form.