Chicago filmmaker Jerzy Rose's new feature stars Lyra Hill and Bruce Bundy as stuck-up restaurateurs seeking to do good in their community
Neighborhood Food Drive’s synopsis should be a clue as to what kind of film it is: “Awful idiots fail at throwing a party over and over”. Director Jerzy Rose definitely wasn’t out to make a feel-good comedy with those emotional moments the more mainstream ones tend to tack on during the last 20 minutes.
The idiots in question are Madeline (Lyra Hill) and Naomi (Bruce Bundy), the owners of an upscale yet curiously always empty restaurant. Wanting to supposedly help their community, they set about organizing food drives with the help of their dimbulb waiter Steven (Marcos Barnes), his flighty girlfriend Bianca (Ruby McCollister) and the couple’s douchey, bearded, Jason Sudeikis-type college prof David (Ted Tremper), who apparently has nothing better to do than hang out with them all day.
Rose’s aim is to mercilessly mock the “causeheads” (credit bygone college comedy PCU for the term), those wrongheaded humanitarian types who live in a bubble and want to change the world without actually taking the time to learn what they’re railing against. In this case, our characters deliver big heartfelt speeches about their big ideas, but are so self-involved and egotistical they can’t even throw a decent party without tripping over themselves; really, guys, all it takes is a beer keg and a group of friends.
Rose is also taking aim at wannabe upscale “artsy” types – Bianca is a so-called artist whose big statement is pictures of dicks, Jonah-Hill-in-Superbad-style. These people all act like high-minded snobs, which would be unbearable if they weren’t as dumb as posts. The cast plays everything in a completely straight, deadpan manner, and their characters’ total lack of self-awareness just makes everything increasingly more absurd and hilarious (Archery should be banned in restaurants, unless it’s Medieval Times).
The straightforward tone can throw you off at first, resembling an indie drama, but there’s no way to keep a straight face as things get progressively stupider. No big dramatic moments, either; Madeline, Naomi, and Co. do get their big group hug, but it’s just as ridiculous and unearned as everything else.
Jerzy Rose fully commits to his absurdist, black comedy tone and it works wonders; he wants you to point and laugh at these morons just as much as he is. It’s a refreshing change of pace from mainstream comedies and their seemingly mandatory gooey, feel-good moments. Not that you’d ever want to meet these people, but making fun of them is just fine.
Neighborhood Food Drive screens again at Slamdance on Wednesday 25 January at the Treasure Mountain Inn's Ballroom at 6.30pm. The festival runs until 26 January.