Movie Review – Here Today (Mini Review)

Principal Cast : Billy Crystal, Tiffany Haddish, Penn Badgley, Laura Benanti, Louisa Krause, Anna Deavere Smith, Matthew Broussard, Alex Brightman, Andrew Durand, Max Gordon Moore, Audrey Hsieh.
Synopsis: When veteran comedy writer Charlie Burnz meets New York street singer Emma Payge, they form an unlikely yet hilarious and touching friendship that kicks the generation gap aside and redefines the meaning of love and trust.


An ageing comedy writer with early onset dementia meets a brash, outspoken jazz singer on the streets of New York City, doesn’t really sound like a comedy-drama match made in heaven, but Billy Crystal’s third directorial outing boasts heartfelt, if not sometime overly mushy, sentiments about getting older, friends and family, and figuring out how to forget. Here Today does touch a little too heavily on sentimentality, and Hollywood legend Crystal pulls a few strings with some notable heavyweight cameos in what is obviously a passion project for him, but the teaming with Tiffany Haddish is rock solid and makes for a prickly, adversarial friendship that blossoms into a deep-rooted affection.

Crystal plays longtime film and television writer Charlie Burnz, who is spending the twilight of his career working on late night skit comedy show “This Just In”, a riff on Saturday Night Live, while dealing with a form of dementia causing him to become increasingly forgetful and unaware of his surroundings. Burnz like routine, walking to work the same way and not really deviating, until a chance encounter with sassy jazz singer Emma Payge (Haddish) changes the direction of his life. Charlie’s strained relationship with his kids, son Rex (Penn Badgley) and frosty daughter Francine (Laura Benanti), as well as his affection for his granddaughter Carrie (Louisa Krause), form the crux of his growing anxiety that his condition will soon evaporate his memories of them, and he is deeply fearful of any new friendship relationships entering his life. However, together with Emma, Charlie comes to reconcile his feelings with the increasing severity of his condition, and ends up reconciling with his family and burying the ghosts of his past.

Here Today is a wonderfully affecting film that feels like a warm hug. It isn’t a laugh-fest, as one might expect from Billy Crystal, but his piercing insight into the fear most of us have of “losing our marbles” to such an insidious disease is delivered with the prickly demeanour of a Hollywood legend at the top of his game. There’s fear, anger, love and trust within Here Today’s steady soft-focused humour, mixed with absurdity (the faux comedy show Charlie works for is flat-out not funny at all, despite the esteem with which Charlie is held by most of those around him) and a dose of familial angst, but the primary positive of the film is the pairing on-screen of Crystal and Haddish, who have what feels like a genuine camaraderie and chemistry together, similar to a Steve Martin/John Candy archetype of the 80’s, or, perhaps more appropriately, Crystal and Robin Williams of old, with Crystal playing the straight man to Haddish’s overconfident and headstrong Emma Payge. This aspect of the film is the strongest element and when they’re together it works a treat.

Here Today might feel maudlin or too shallow a depiction of dementia to warrant such praise, but it really is quite a sweet little movie. It elicited a few trembling lips in this household at least, for what it’s worth. As a long-time fan of Billy Crystal it’s definitely one of his lesser movies but hardly a poor one: definitely recommended for those seeking a comfort film.


Who wrote this?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *