Weird ‘Lemon’ is portrait of a middle-age jerk


Some facts: “Lemon” stars Brett Gelman, was written by Gelman and his wife, Janicza Bravo, and was directed by the latter.

It poses one of the year’s most important cinematic questions — is Isaac Lachmann, the person Gelman plays here, actually a worse human being than Martin, his character on the British TV show “Fleabag”? It is a neck-and-neck race to the bottom in the Annoying Middle-Aged White Guy Stakes.

Self-consciously mannered with an almost Pinter-like vibe (moreso perhaps than the post-Pinter bard of Long Island, Hal Hartley), “Lemon,” which screened at South by Southwest, is the story of Lachmann. Everything about this guy screams jerk — tall but not self-possessed, he sports a comb-over, is an unsuccessful actor and works, sort of, as a bitter theater director. He also wears shorts. A lot.

Lachmann is directing a production of the “The Seagull,” hates the lead actress and clearly has some sort of increasingly odd crush on the lead (Michael Cera with bonkers hair, and God bless him for getting weirder with age). Lachmann’s girlfriend, Ramona (Judy Greer), is blind, goes on lots of work trips and clearly wants out of this relationship.

Things never really get less awkward — indeed the film just seems to get stranger by the minute. As Ramona slips away from him (emotionally), Lachmann books some small TV ads, where the director examines him like a steer. (The film’s best joke might very well be the cameraman’s reaction when Lachmann gives his age and weight.)

The cringe-hits just keep on coming. When he goes to a Passover Seder hosted by his parents (Rhea Perlman and Fred Melamed), his brother (Martin Starr) breaks out some racially awkward chatter about their sister (Shiri Appleby) and her African-American child. The scene where everyone sings “A Million Matzoh Balls” is just as stomach-turningly odd as it sounds.

Even when fortune smiles on him and a lovely Jamaican woman (Nia Long) take a liking to him, he remains the sort of fellow who meets her family and says, “I saw a documentary about African-American hair. A lot of hair comes from horses.” The final sequence is … explosive.

There is no hugging and no learning here, no big catharsis or revelation. Bravo and Gelman deliver an unnerving and deeply weird portrait of the artist as a middle-age jerk. We have seen such things before, but maybe never quite like this.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Movies & TV

Austin’s longest-running quilt show returns Sept. 28-30 with mini quilts, rainbows of color
Austin’s longest-running quilt show returns Sept. 28-30 with mini quilts, rainbows of color

Quilters and sewing nerds are all around you. Sometimes, they look like the grandmothers and mothers who might have taught you to sew a long time ago, but increasingly, they look like men and young people and punk rockers and people who also run marathons on the weekend. I’m one of those quilt fans who looks forward to the annual...
These are the 5 most popular Austin neighborhoods to rent an apartment
These are the 5 most popular Austin neighborhoods to rent an apartment

Looking to move into a new ‘hood?  According to Apartment Guide, the five most popular Austin neighborhoods to rent an apartments are -- in order -- downtown, Riverside, Mueller, Clarksville and South Lamar. One of these things is not like the others (that is to say, one of the neighborhoods is actually below the average cost for...
Survey: Majority of Austin-area families own fewer than 20 children’s books, which could affect kids’ education
Survey: Majority of Austin-area families own fewer than 20 children’s books, which could affect kids’ education

According to a new study by a literacy nonprofit, 58 percent of Central Texas families own fewer than 20 children’s books, and 35 percent own fewer than 20 books total.  The 2018 Central Texas Reading Study cites research that claims having books in the home increases a child’s academic performance. The study...
Celebrate National Cheeseburger Day with some of Austin’s best burgers
Celebrate National Cheeseburger Day with some of Austin’s best burgers

It’s National Cheeseburger Day in ‘Merica. Now, I just turned in my annual dining guide and am hitting the reset button with a juice cleanse, so I hate National Cheeseburger Day this year. However, in honor of this most magnificent fake holiday, I’m re-posting my ...
Robbery victim shot after online date set him up, police say
Robbery victim shot after online date set him up, police say

A man was shot multiple times Tuesday morning in Atlanta when his online date set him up to be robbed, according to police.  An Atlanta police officer was flagged down just before 1:30 a.m. after the man drove to a gas station seeking help. He had several gunshot wounds to the chest, police spokesman Officer Jarius Daugherty told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution...
More Stories