Movie Review: Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie (2017)

Posted: May 6, 2017 in Movie Reviews
Tags: , ,

Handsome_A_Netflix_Mystery_Movie_posterHandsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie (2017)

Starring- Jeff Garlin, Natasha Lyonne, Amy Sedaris, Leah Remini, Christine Woods, Steven Weber, J.J. Totah, Ava Acres, Timm Sharp

Director- Jeff Garlin

Trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmU2Hq8AsYY

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L.A. detective Gene Handsome (Jeff Garlin) investigates the gruesome murder of his neighbor’s babysitter.

Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie continues the trend of Netflix originals that are too messy to love but too strange to immediately dismiss — they’re always out of focus, throwing their bizarre plots and off-kilter tone at you one scene after another until there’s so much to pick apart that it takes days to—hey, wait a minute, this is the introduction I wrote for Small Crimes, what the heck?

Yeah, this is definitely the weirdest of the consistent threads I see in Netflix’s current slate of originals. Their distribution model seems to have made them a haven for artists to cut loose with their most bizarre ideas and release them completely untouched. Part of me kind of appreciates that; it’s resulted in a number of movies that are just about unprecedented (for the life of me, I still have no idea if I liked Girlfriend’s Day, but it was the only film of its kind that will ever exist). Part of me is still unconvinced, because I’m not sure that any of these movies have ever been good — sometimes likable, yes, but all over the place. At some point, there needs to be a filter somewhere, someone discerning enough to give shape to these uneven projects. I’m also starting to wonder if Netflix’s strategy is taking the stakes out of it a little bit — with any other distributor, most of these movies would be a gigantic risk, but here, they’re not. As such, filmmakers get to realize their vision, but it doesn’t always feel like the necessary heart and devotion went into it. The movies are just a little too leisurely.

I think that’s my main problem with Handsome. Some parts of it work, a lot of parts of it are interesting, but it too often feels like a bunch of friends were like, “Hey, let’s turn on a camera and film ourselves doing funny things! Won’t that be fun?” I’m not saying those involved in this production were cynical or unexcited about what they were doing; the movie just lacks the “labor” part of the “labor of love,” seeming entitled to its own existence and like it doesn’t have to struggle, to justify itself, to establish a sense of purpose. It’s all too relaxed and comfortable, despite its eccentricity.

Said eccentricity has been enough to rescue some of these Netflix originals; they’re just too interesting to throw aside, even if they don’t work. Unfortunately, I don’t think Handsome’s specific variety of strangeness is compelling enough to smooth over its flaws.

It isn’t bad. It’s hit or miss. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t; in the end, it’s weighted just barely too heavily in the latter direction for my taste. Its sense of humor is very particular, but it definitely got some laughs out of me, mostly through the performances. It features what I can only describe as “artfully bad” acting, comedians and other funny people pretending to be hard-edged film noir character and playing everything with an exaggerated posture that smacks of community theatre — but in a loving, well-balanced sort of way. The writing is funny on occasion, but it’s the actors who sell it.

Otherwise, the script isn’t quite as sharp as it needs to be. It isn’t really a parody so much as “film noir except funny,” and that lack of direction leaves the comedy hanging. It isn’t always sure what’s funny about a scene, so instead, it plays things straight and awkwardly shoehorns comedy into it wherever it can. It’s trying a little too hard, straining to make jokes out of nothing and fit them into the rhythm of a given scene or stretching good one-scene bits into ill-advised running gags (“characters talking about something serious lapse into talking about something stupid and oddly specific before returning to the main point” is cute at first, but the tenth or eleventh time, it just feels like an obstacle to the plot”). I’m not sure why certain characters or scenes are in the movie. Some are introduced and then disappear, others stick around but with no clear purpose. The movie is always making decisions I don’t understand. Even the opening scene confuses me — literally the first line of dialogue in the movie tells you in no uncertain terms who the killer is, immediately resolving the central plot. And it isn’t pulling a Memento, where it shows you the ending first and then slowly changes the context over the course of the film until you see it in a completely different light. No, Handsome ends more or less how you expect. So what’s going on with the opening? It robs the movie of its most interesting plot device and makes every scene feel like wheel-spinning. Is it a joke? What’s funny about it?

It’s a bit of a step backward in the end. Netflix has been getting a little more cinematic as time goes on, but Handsome is another production that feels like it belongs on television. As stated, it’s far from the worst thing ever, and I can imagine someone enjoying it — it’s funny often enough that even I didn’t hate the time I spent watching it. But it’s still too underwhelming to recommend.

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