MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 14, 2018: A HAPPENING OF MONUMENTAL PROPORTIONS

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motw logo 1-35Judy Greer is no slouch at making people laugh; as an actress, she’s co-starred in comedies both big-screen (“13 Going on 30”) and small (“Arrested Development,” “Miss Guided,” “Archer,” and many more). But “A Happening of Monumental Proportions” marks her first time behind the camera, directing others as they go about the serious business of creating humor. The result is a quirky, charming comedy about several Los Angelenos whose lives intersect over the course of a single day.

Much of the film takes place at an elementary school, where administrators (Allison Janney and Rob Riggle) deal with an unexpectedly deceased landscaper, teachers (Anders Holm and John Cho) wrangle both kids and their own emotions/life choices, and students Patricia and Darius (a pre-Wrinkle in Time Storm Reid and Marcus Eckert) juggle crushes, friendship, and career day.

Meanwhile, Patricia’s father, Daniel (Common), is facing his own challenges at work, thanks to a demanding new boss (Bradley Whitford) and the angry assistant (Jennifer Garner) whose husband just found out she was having an affair with Daniel. All of the movie’s storylines come together in ways that would ruin a few good jokes if they were revealed; suffice it to say that career day ends up taking some unexpected twists.

Greer has clearly made some good connections over her years in the business; in addition to all of the names already mentioned, the cast includes brief-but-memorable appearances by several other very familiar faces (again, to be specific might undercut some of the movie’s laughs). They all seem to be having a great time, and the result is a winning, lighthearted comedy that addresses real issues related to parent-child relationships — including responsibility and communication — while never getting preachy or didactic. Here’s hoping Greer gets many more chances to bring her eye and ear for quick wit and clever storytelling to the screen. — Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

Liz Whittemore: Judy Greer, one of the most underrated talents around, gives us one delightfully starstudded debut feature in A Happening of Monumental Proportions. Boasting an eclectic array of actors from Alison Janey, Common, Jennifer Garner, to the most satisfying cameo from Keanu Reeves I’ve ever experienced, this film is fun and breezy all while tackling some pretty heavy subject matter underneath a slew of laugh out loud moments. Each actor goes above and beyond, whether it be in comic timing or playing against his/her usual type, in a series of seemingly unrelated vignettes centering around an elementary school career day. With quippy dialogue and truly wonderful directing from Greer, this film easily makes way for a deluge of new projects, all of which I am looking forward to exploring.

Nell Minow: Judy Greer, who has been the best best friend in movies since Eve Arden, brings her comic timing and appreciation for character roles to her first feature, best viewed as a mosaic of small scenes to make the most of her astonishing collection of actors rather than any kind of connected story. Every performance is a gem.

Sandie Angulo Chen: It’s a testament to how much social capital character actress Judy Greer has earned in Hollywood that so many stars agreed to be in her directorial debut. The dramedy A Happening of Monumental Proportions is – at its best — as quirky and amusing as Greer herself. With an impressive all-star ensemble cast that features everyone from Common, Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney, and Jennifer Garner to Katie Holmes, John Cho, Rob Riggle, Nat Faxon, Anders Holm, and Kumail Nanjiani, the movie takes place all in one fateful day when the lives of most of the characters converge at the same private school’s chaotic Career Day presentation. The movie tackles a lot — from the trials of single fatherhood and existential ennui to the difficulties of making friends when you’re perpetually the new kid in town. The inter-generational scenes are the sweetest, with middle-school-aged kids asking adults about the meaning of love and adults teaching kids about failure and humiliation.

Jennifer Merin : A Happening of Monumental Proportions is the directorial debut feature from actress Judy Greer. The film is a modern-day comedy of errors about parental — single dads’ in particular — responsibilities and ambitions, and how the impact they have on the well-being and outlook of their often more mature kids. There are lots of amusing plot twists and character quirks to bring the point home. And Judy Greer directs with honesty, her quick wit and impeccable sense of timing shining throughout for a delightfully lighthearted first feature.

Marilyn Ferdinand::: It’s hard to decide which of the many events that descend upon the faculty, staff, students, and parents of a Los Angeles school is the monumental happening suggested by the title of this film, but it’s clear that all of the characters in A Happening of Monumental Proportions feel theirs is a make-or-break moment. Judy Greer, a consummate actress who is best-known for her work in comedies, stays squarely in her comfort zone with this, her feature-film directorial debut. She knows all the beats and works with her talented cast, which includes Allison Janney, Common, Jennifer Garner, and Katie Holmes, to mine each scenario for all its comic possibilities. Her child actors, Storm Reid and Marcus Eckert, are particularly noteworthy for taking on the difficult task of acting with maturity while
all of the adults around them crumble into childishness. The result is a diverting movie-going experience.

Cate Marquis: For her directorial debut, Judy Greer assembled a stellar cast that includes Allison Janney, Jennifer Garner, John Cho, and other big names for her indie comedy A Happening of Monumental Proportions. The film is intended to be an absurdist comedy, set in a private grade school, weaving together various tales about the students, parents and teachers where the the grown-ups seem far more childish that the kids. It is a worthy idea, although these adults are sometimes really, really dumb as well as childish.
The humor leans towards the type in Weekend With Bernie, including a long-running bit about a dead body, and leans more towards the comedy of Ted, Anchorman, Dumb and Cumber, Zoolander I and II than The Hangover. If those are among your favorites, this comedy might please you, as long as you are fine mixing that with a sweet story of a couple of kids and one forlorn music teacher.
The main focus of the film is a sweet one, between a widowed father (Common) raising his tween daughter (Storm Reid) alone. These two characters often seem like an island of sanity in a sea of madness and silliness. The other more human character, the music teacher, is played by Anders Holms, whose comic setting is a bit more believable. The “happening of monumental proportions” the school’s Career Day where all the various elements converge. Chaos ensues, but audiences will have to decide if hilarity does as well.

FILM DETAILS:

Title: A Happening of Monumental Proportions

Directors: Judy Greer

Release Date: September 21, 2018

Running Time:

Language: English

Screenwriter: Gary Lundy

Distribution Company: Great Point Media

Trailer

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Nikki Baughan, Anne Brodie, Betsy Bozdech, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, Esther Iverem, MaryAnn Johanson, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Kristen Page-Kirby, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna, Jeanne Wolf

Previous #MOTW Selections

Other Movies Opening This Week

Edited by Jennifer Merin

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Betsy Bozdech

Betsy Bozdech is the Executive Editor of Common Sense, for which she also reviews films. Her film reviews and commentaries also appear on Reel.com and Hollywood.com.