The Magnificent Meyersons (2021, Evan Oppenheimer)

Despite some occasionally annoying visual techniques (which I'll enumerate later), director Oppenheimer always shows enthusiasm for the directing of The Magnificent Meyersons. He loves directing New York City walk and talks, whether on the street or in a park. Most of Meyersons takes place either in a park or on the street. Sometimes seemingly the same street, just different sides of it. The dialogue pacing is usually good enough an occasional goof doesn't matter. There's a tranquil, meandering sense to it all. But it's unclear whether or not it's supposed to meander quite so much.

Meyersons takes place either all in one day, but since Oppenheimer's drone shots of the city are all from the same time of day and don't change with the sun's position, or match the location of the characters, maybe it's two. It seems more like one, though. If it's not supposed to be one day, there's another continuity problem in the script, which is a substantial pile.

The film opens introducing the Meyersons of the title. There's Ian Kahn as the intolerant robber baron who turns out to be the hero. He loves his daughter, Talia Oppenheimer (who's terrible; I hadn't realized she presumably got the job because her dad made the movie, maybe it plays better knowing), and worries about her getting cancer. He doesn't seem to care about any other little kid on the face of the planet but whatever. We don't find out until the third act he's supposed to be the hero when he's a dick to someone else, and it turns out Oppenheimer wanted us rooting for Kahn. Who's always an intolerant robber baron. His contribution to the first two acts of the movie is solely him being a loud-mouth dick. Turns out since he's rich, he's right.


Then there's Jackie Burns. She's got the best arc in the movie, even though it's done in the first act. It involves her husband, Greg Keller, who's kind of a tool. They're good together—and it's believably they're married, which shouldn't be a big deal, but when all the kids eventually get together, you don't think they've ever even met before shooting that day. She's having a kind of crisis, and it gets some resolution. Since nothing else in the movie intentionally avoids closure, she kind of gets the only full arc. And it's thanks to Keller, who doesn't get to hang with the fam later. She's in publishing; it doesn't matter.

Daniel Eric Gold is the younger brother and the rebel. He's in rabbinical school, his best friend is a priest (Neal Huff), and he meets his congregants in a park. One such congregant, Lilli Stein, visits him multiple times—so in one day—to tease him about being a future rabbi. Gold's the likable one. Or so you'd think. The movie keeps setting him up for a big arc, and it's never a thing. Not during the first twist, not during the last twist. Oppenheimer needs to gin up a twist every twenty-five minutes to keep the movie going, which is a bummer because when it's sort of lyrical navel-gazing, the film is at its best. Even with tedious transition shots–editor Evan Wood slows down the drone footage, making it more obvious that it's the same place as before and none of the characters are at that location.

The last kid is daughter Shoshannah Stern. She's a cutthroat realtor who no one's going to suspect because she's deaf, and people make a big deal out of her being capable when she's not around, which also means it's okay she's cutthroat. The cutthroat arc goes nowhere. In fact, it fails when you look at the movie's timeline because Stern makes an appointment then spends the entire second act having coffee with girlfriend Lauren Ridloff. Stern and Ridloff are good together. It helps a lot. Ridloff also doesn't get to go to the fam get-together, but probably should have; if Kahn's not a dick to his sister's Black girlfriend, he at least isn't a dick to his sister's Black girlfriend.

Mom is Kate Mulgrew. She's a pediatric cancer doctor who's miserable with her life because, well, she tells little kids they're going to die. Mulgrew's excellent. Either best or second-best performance. Barbara Barrie plays her mom, and they have a big scene walking around a park and talking before Mulgrew has to inspect Talia Oppenheimer for cancer (in the park). Melissa Errico plays the daughter-in-law (it's hard to imagine her and Kahn being married but sure). Errico doesn't have a part other than to take the kid to the park to tie into Mulgrew's plot, except people giving her shit for being Italian. Including her kid. Then again, maybe Kahn does make sense as the spouse.

The movie revolves around this typical day becoming fantastic a couple times, with flashbacks to Richard Kind abandoning the family twenty years before being thrown in to justify their current unhappiness. Kind's uneven, though the video filters Oppenheimer uses on the flashback sequences don't help any. Only Mulgrew's flashback shows any imagination (because they weren't willing to de-age her), with most of the kid actors playing the regular cast in flashback indistinct. Except for Anna Dale Robinson, who's got an essential part and is bad. Though Kind's blowing it too, because Oppenheimer fails at the single scene he needs to write well. The rest of the movie, even the contrived stuff, can get away with the nonsense platitudes. But if you're going to do it epical, you need to be able to deliver.

The whole thing seems like it just needs another ten or fifteen minutes, depending on whether or not they get rid of the drone footage. Good-looking digital video—with mostly strong photography from Derek McKane—helps. Daniel McCormick's repetitive score is satisfactory in the first act, tedious (like the drone shots it accompanies) by the end.

Meyersons is a middling, indie streets of New York City comedy. Far from the worst thing. And there's terrific acting from Mulgrew and Barrie.

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