Saturday, November 26, 2011

Jeffie Was Here

Director Todd Edwards
Winner – 2010 San Francisco United Film Festival – Best Feature
BOFA 2011

“I told you not to promise adventure.”

Broke would-be novelist Alan Mangold (Peter Bodgood) is about to drive 2,813 miles over five days in an old bomb of a car with his girlfriend, Amanda (Alexis Raben), whom he doesn’t know is pregnant, and an obnoxious 30-something year old student, who isn’t what he appears to be, to get to his grandmother’s funeral. What could possibly go wrong?

The movie opens in the couple’s apartment, which is so tiny, Amanda has to move Alan’s coffee cup so he can piss in the sink. When Alan gets the call that his grandmother has died, he’s determined to make the drive out west for the reading of the will. Not only will this solve their financial problems, Alan is convinced it will be a “spiritual journey” for them and the inspiration he needs to finish his first novel, “Orphan Bastard”. But there is a hitch: they don’t have enough money to make the trip.

Enter Jeffie (Director and co-writer Todd Edwards), a student who responds to the couple’s internet ad which promises adventure in exchange for the cost of sharing the trip. Jeffie is a greenie, philosopher, musician, poet and generally obnoxious know-it-all who gradually erodes Alan’s tightly-wound persona and the couple’s sanity with antics reminiscent of Bill Murray’s character in Frank Oz’s 1991 film “What About Bob”. Maybe it’s Edwards’ deadpan delivery or his comic timing, but who would have thought getting a fish-hook in the eye could be so hilarious?

Jeffie Was Here is a classic road-trip/odd couple comedy in which people’s differences start rubbing excruciatingly through the intense intimacy of sharing a confined space over a concentrated period of time. (Think “Midnight Run” and “As Good as it Gets”.) Familiarity breeds contempt and also a few laughs as we see Alan and Amanda’s 7-year relationship go under Jeffie’s microscope. Can it be saved in time? Or are Jeffie’s motives in coming on the road trip less innocent than they seem?

I’ve heard that this film has polarised BOFA audiences, with some people actually leaving the screening. Sure, some of the humour was juvenile, and I felt that the last third of the movie lagged a bit, but overall I found Jeffie Was Here to be a quirky comedy with moments of surprisingly fresh and unexpected humour. Perhaps I shouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did, or laughed as hard at the politically incorrect scenes, but I found Jeffie to be both annoying and likeable – and genuinely funny.

“Enjoy the journey.”

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