Fits and Starts
Starring Wyatt Cenac, Greta Lee, Maria Dizzia
From the writer and producer of last year’s delightful Hello My Name is Doris, comes another endearing character comedy. This time Laura Terruso offers a look into a couple’s story of balancing success with two struggling writers under one roof. Money Monster actress Greta Lee and former Daily Show writer/actor Cenac take dry humor to the max as married couple David & Jennifer. It’s reminiscent of two recent films with similar obstacles and comedic tone: Mistress America and Fort Tilden. Fits & Starts (another SXSW suffering a bad and non-descript title), is a more enjoyable film than both I mentioned, but it’s whimsy and wit is also regrettably forgettable in both the film festival ocean of screenings and as a 2017 release on the whole.
Couple Jennifer (Lee) and David (Cenac) are both writers, one more successful than the other. After book signings and readings, David has become nothing more than Jennifer’s supportive husband who isn’t interested in fame as much as just finishing his novel. Invited to a party from her publisher outside the city, Jennifer insists they attend so David can network Their day begins with a rental car delay and ends with David in the hosts pool terrorized by a woman who could be his new publisher if he will shave his beard. Their venture into the Connecticut suburbs ends up making quite an impression on the local police who get lots of entertainment at the couple’s expense.
Unlike ‘Doris’ script that was balanced with emotion, Fits and Starts is all light fare.
Lee delivers a big slice of a Catherine Keener performance as the pushy pants in the relationship. Her discipline for writing and networking is a constant reminder of his failure to complete. The irony being David was the former professor teaching Jennifer before they got married. It’s one of those frustratingly funny comedies, where anything that can go wrong for the characters does. It begins as a mutual story of both characters’ experiences, but hands the narrative over to David as his situation becomes more interesting while Jennifer is isolated. The imbalance is too bad, because Lee is equally as talented and enjoyable to watch, she is the real energy of the film.
Throughout the escapades, David tries to explain the book he is having difficulty writing. It’s a 1980’s coming of age story… but his developing evening would make for a much more entertaining bit of writing, especially when he ends up in a bathrobe, a half- shaved face, explaining to the party goers what is actually happening with him. Fits and Starts is charming but doesn’t have the staying power of something like Hello My Name is Doris which was a funnier, more unique and everlasting comedy. Terruso’s latest feels like a filmmaker still cutting her teeth, on the way to more groundbreaking work in the genre. Unlike her ‘Doris’ script that was balanced with emotion, Fits and Starts is all light fare.
The wit and whimsy doesn’t stick past the credits.