By EMILY EAGLIN
A Film starring both Michael Cera & Nia Long...
...Was the pitch that gave me no choice but to see Lemon. Was this even possible before?
Lemon (2017) is a cringe dramedy directed by Janicza Bravo. The film stars Brett Gelman (as Isaac) and is an in-depth imagination of the age-old question How awful could that miserable white guy's life possibly be? At first look, the trailer may leave you asking Do we really need another one of these melanin-devoid indie films? And I know they aint got Nia Long playing no make-up artist! But, sticking with my original commitment to see this film, I discovered it is much more layered than any of that. And after watching the film, I'm relieved to tell you that a white/dude director could not have gotten away with this pitch & committed cast/production, in any era of film.
Lemon is filled with noteworthy lines such as "My sister has a black son, he's six," and signature wtf content that only women of color hear the gist of, on a consistent enough basis to write into a film. The perspective that Bravo brings to the craft of Lemon is mad special for that--you think it's one thing, then another, only to be left without any of the assumptions you originally made.
Watch Lemon for free HERE
Bravo's creation of Isaac is not imaginary or satirical, but it is a serious experiment in schemas. If I saw a guy like my guy Isaac, someone who's life experiences and demeanor are so differing from mine, I might passively imagine him to be a bird killer, a cake thrower, or give bad acting advice in his spare time. Nothing about this white guy is redeemable, which is where Lemon probably lost a lot of people, but also where it stands out tallest. We're used to seeing awful guys and/or antiheroes get their way (in life and in flicks) and at the end of the day some just don't. We're made to ask did they do anything to deserve to?
What did this dude do to deserve the likes of Nia Long?
...a question I'd not be as compelled to ask if we were operating within standard movie logic. Lemon snaps us out of this fallacy of a mindset time and time again.
Lemon was not only the work of Bravo's directing, but she co-wrote it with her husband, Brett Gelman, who plays Isaac. This dynamic gives an wider view of what went into creating Lemon, one movie as a three way synthesis of acting, writing, & directing through the work of two people. What gave me some solid insight into the creators' mindset in making such a bizarrely unique piece was this podcast episode (Earwolf's Yo is this Racist?). Even though, for me, this film was a bit of depression fodder, it was still a welcome gaze into an original cinematic world not created by a dude director.
I would be, admittedly, further head-over-heels, with the theory behind Lemon, if I was one for cringe comedy, but alas, I am one to space out my Tim & Eric binges (with months in between). Please forgive me, I don't want to lose friends on this one. Still it was a film that should be here, be loud as it is, and have such an all-star cast who so clearly see its vision. The dialogue exists in its own world, the surreal awfulness of the bulk of its characters do as well. Lemon is a slap in the face, it's the experience of sitting down to watch a *seemingly harmless* indie movie and being backhanded with the most mundane sense of monotony. It's not what you will expect it to be at all and more than you would have imagined it would be. Lemon teaches us that when life gives you lemons...
you got lemons.