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Are we ready for hilarious comedies about lockdowns?

As one of these two Netflix films proves, yes—if the film makes this world seem like a better place

The Bubble official poster from Netflix

As the pandemic is not completely over, it may be too soon to make a comedic film about the great lockdowns of 2020. It might only serve as grim reminder.  Most of us are still coping, so it seems insensitive to find anything funny about a world crisis that hit too close to home.

That’s on one hand. On the other hand, it’s often said that we Filipinos tend to use our sense of humor to help us muddle through difficult times. Thus, we’d probably be more open to a comedy.  In fact, a homegrown movie that dealt with the pandemic was produced as early as last year. It wasn’t meant to be funny, however. It was a skin flick masquerading as social commentary. For certain audiences, it’s never too soon for that type of movie.

Meanwhile, two filmmakers abroad couldn’t wait long enough to produce films—or cash in—on the lockdowns. One is a Hollywood product, the other is from France. Somehow, they found a way to approach the subject and make us laugh. With The Bubble, Hollywood went for satire. And with Stuck Together, the French told much of the story through the innocent point of view of an eight-year-old boy.

The Bubble
Cast: Karen Gillan, David Duchovny, Pedro Pascal
Written by Judd Apatow and Pam Brady
Directed by Judd Apatow
Netflix


Credit: Netflix/YouTube

It takes a writer/director like Judd Apatow to do a satire on the lockdown. He is, after all, a purveyor of crass humor. His many hits include movies that made 40-year-old virgins and single “knocked up” women a laughing matter. They hit it big with open-minded audiences, and less so with the woke. Judd Apatow brings his brand of humor to The Bubble, which is more of a satire on Hollywood types and less about the pandemic.

Reportedly inspired by the delayed shoot of the upcoming Jurassic World movie, The Bubble has the cast and crew filming the nth sequel to a successful dinosaur movie franchise. The movie within the movie is being shot in England— at the height of the pandemic. Thus, stringent health protocols are being enforced. Cast and crew are prohibited from leaving their hotel and studio, both of which comprise the bubble.

Trapped in the bubble for months, stars shooting a dinosaur movie bicker or indulge in meaningless flings

This doesn’t bode well for the dinosaur movie’s lead players, all of them bestowed with sizable egos, severe insecurity, intense neurosis, and extreme jealousy. Trapped in the bubble for several months, the stars bicker or indulge in meaningless flings. Others resort to either substance abuse or creating content for their TikTok accounts.

Typical of Apatow, the script is riddled with expletives. If you can put up with that, you’ll find some of the situations funny. Foremost among them is a delicious feud between the leading lady Carol Cobb (played by Karen Gillan) and the young TikTok sensation Krystal Kris (played by Apatow’s daughter Iris Apatow). Their dispute culminates in an uproarious slapfest.

David Duchovny is one of the stars, and he constantly makes a pest of himself by insisting on rewriting the script of their movie.

The rest of the ensemble cast is game and they bring in the laughs, but only up to a certain point. With two-hour running time, The Bubble overstays its welcome. The cast does its best to keep us interested, and now and then surprise guest stars appear out of the woodwork (from Benedict Cumberbatch to James McAvoy). Yet the movie becomes tiresome and their antics annoying. Its in-your-face comedy may also get on your nerves.

If you’re patient enough you’ll be rewarded with an elaborate TikTok dance number, performed by the entire cast. I’ll trade any musical number from the West Side Story remake to see 61-year-old Duchovny give BTS a run for their money.

As satire, The Bubble has fun targeting Hollywood, social media, and millennials, among others. It doesn’t reek of self-importance; it just promises to please Apatow’s fans. It won’t win him any new fans, though.

Stuck Together
Cast: Dany Boone, Laurence Arne, Milo Machado Graner
Written by Laurence Arne
Directed by Dany Boone
Netflix

Stuck Together official poster


Credit: Netflix/YouTube

This French film was released by Netflix last October. It’s the brainchild of Dany Boone, who starred in it and directed it. His current girlfriend, the actress Laurence Arne, wrote the screenplay and also starred in it. In their movie, the famous couple plays a married couple with an eight-year-old daughter.  They’re caught in the three-month lockdown in their apartment in a mid-rise building in Paris.

Boone plays a hypochondriac whose phobias are aggravated by the pandemic. When he does the groceries, he wears a face shield. He thus figures in a scene that should resonate with Filipino viewers. It’s when he realizes how uncomfortable and inconvenient face shields are!

‘Stuck Together’ comes closer to reality. The building’s residents are ordinary folk, not celebrities—but they’re no less neurotic

Strangely, it seemed that wearing masks wasn’t fashionable in Paris during their great lockdown. But I later learned that at that time, France was experiencing a shortage of masks.

As compared to The Bubble, the premise of Stuck Together comes closer to reality. The building’s residents are ordinary folk, not larger-than-life celebrities. But they’re no less neurotic. Being trapped with a group of quirky tenants leads to marital troubles and quarrels with neighbors. It’s a droll situation, as each resident suffers the lockdown in his or her own way.

The building’s caretaker (played wonderfully by Jorge Calvo) usually finds himself in amusing situations, though he quietly worries about his wife. She’s confined in the hospital’s COVID wing. There’s also an unscrupulous businessman (played by Belgian actor Francois Damien) who’ll stop at nothing to profit from the pandemic. In contrast, his eight-year-old son Basile (played engagingly by Milo Machado Graner) is a lovable tyke. He’s in love with the little girl next door (Rose De Kervenoael).

Being character-driven, the movie is not strong on plot. Because it’s set in an apartment building inhabited by eccentrics, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and the Korean TV series Vincenzo come to mind. Frankly, when it comes to creating peculiar but amiable neighbors, the Koreans easily surpass the French. That goes for the humor, too. Stuck Together suffers from a deficiency in clever dialogue. Perhaps the wit got lost in the English subtitles, but it moves at a leisurely pace and plays like a series of light comedy sketches. It also could have done away with some of the residents, most notably the over-the-top medical doctor who behaves like a mad scientist. He’s too much of a caricature.

But I like the movie’s lighthearted tone, especially when the little boy starts wooing “the love of his life.” The movie is at its charming best when the focus is on these two delightful children. By the time you get to the heartwarming finale, you’ll forgive all the movie’s flaws.

This brings me to answer my query on whether it’s too soon to see a comedy about the lockdowns. My verdict:  It’s not too soon if the film makes this world seem like a better place to live in, despite the pandemic. On that score, that beautiful final sequence makes Stuck Together a qualified success.

About author

Articles

He is a freelance writer of lifestyle and entertainment, after having worked in Philippine broadsheets and magazines.

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