Lemon is the feature-length debut for writer/director Janicza Bravo. It revolves around Isaac Lachmann (Brett Gelman), a middle-aged actor whose life begins to fall apart after his blind girlfriend Ramona (Judy Greer) leaves him. I was interested in Lemon because of how absurd the premise sounds and because this type of humor usually appeals to me. While the movie isn’t great, it’s still fairly enjoyable if not fairly jarring after the first watch.
On a technical level, Lemon is worth commending. Bravo moves the camera around and keeps this film from being lightly edited improv. The cinematography is vibrant and well-lit enough to highlight the suburban Los Angeles scenery. Heather McCormick’s classical score gives Lemon a sense of identity and doesn’t feel as if it’s only background music. Unfortunately, the editing does not work as well as the other technical aspects. For example, two characters are having a conversation together and the film cuts to another scene midway which feels quite abrupt. These odd editing choices could make sense when looking at the film’s peculiar tone but I would have to see it again in order to confirm that.
Not one performance in Lemon is bad. Brett Gelman is amazing as the lead role; his subtle mannerisms make me believe that Isaac is indeed socially awkward. Judy Greer is great as Isaac’s uneasy girlfriend although her character being blind doesn’t serve much of a purpose to the story. Michael Cera plays Alex, a student in Isaac’s acting workshop who he becomes too fixated with and the back-and-fourth between both characters is hilarious to say the least. Rhea Perlman, Fred Melamed, Shiri Appleby, and Martin Starr excel as members of Isaac’s dysfunctional family because they are all able to sell the offbeat traits of their respective characters.
Writing is where Lemon is most flawed but that isn’t to say it’s not good. The humor has a Wes Anderson feel due to how quirky it is. My favorite parts are the ones that take place at Isaac’s parents’ house and they’re so funny because of how mundane they are. My biggest issue with Lemon is that it doesn’t have a consistent narrative. Many of these scenes don’t flow well together and I had a hard time investing in the story as a result; that could’ve been the filmmakers’ intention but it just didn’t work for me. In fact, a TV show similar to Master of None would’ve fit this character and concept better since it gives the writers more time to flesh out these ideas.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Lemon will surely divide audiences due to the unique brand of humor on display. A better written story would’ve made this feature length debut great. Nonetheless, people who are into dry humor should definitely check it out.