The Year of Spectacular Men hits theaters and VOD on June 15th.
By I. Simon
Veteran actress Lea Thompson (most known for playing Lorraine McFly in the Back the Future trilogy) makes her debut behind the camera with The Year of Spectacular Men, which stars Thompson’s daughters, Madelyn Deutch (who penned the screenplay) and Zoey Deutch, as sisters Izzy and Sabrina Klein. As a fan of the coming of age genre, I was slightly optimistic for this film. Unfortunately, The Year of Spectacular Men is a mixed bag.
To start on a positive note, Madelyn and Zoey Deutch both give superb performances, though I much preferred Zoey’s excellent performance in this year’s underrated coming of age-comedy Flower. They nail both the comedic and more serious aspects of their roles, they have superb chemistry, and even if the two actresses weren’t already sisters in real life, I still would’ve bought them as sisters here. Another thing that I liked was the sisterly relationship aspect of the film. It reminded me of the mother-daughter relationship in Lady Bird. Other positives include Lea Thompson’s performance in a small role, there were occasionally some amusing bits of comedy that worked (though most of the comedy was weak), and I appreciate the attempt to try to humanize the supporting characters, even if said characters did not really work and were overall forgettable.
Unfortunately, everything else either isn’t very good or just doesn’t work at all. The supporting performances mostly range from serviceable at best to pretty bad at worst, the worst performance coming from Cameron Monaghan. He made some acting choices that came off as very odd. Maybe it was the way he was directed, but I didn’t buy him in his role at all.
Madelyn Deutch’s screenplay is a mixed bag. As mentioned, it does get the main focus right, which is the sisterly relationship, but some of the dialogue is weak, the comedy is mostly poor and tries too hard to be funny during scenes that should be a bit more serious, the screenplay tries too hard to be clever, and while the supporting characters might not be reduced to types, they are barely memorable at all. The film also has these random interview segments involving supporting characters that add nothing to the film. Basically, whenever The Year of Spectacular Men isn’t centered around the central relationship, which is the film’s peak, it is very boring.
Lea Thompson’s direction is not awful, but it is very bland. Thompson has trouble finding the right tonal balance between comedy and drama, as the comedy tends to be stretched out and takes out the impact that certain scenes might’ve potentially had. Thompson does nothing unique or interesting stylistically or visually, and she indulges too much in what is already an overwritten screenplay.
If I could describe The Year of Spectacular Men in just one word, it would be “disappointing.” It does nothing awful or offensive, but it hardly does anything exceptional either. If you’re in the mood for a good coming of age film, then you’re better off looking elsewhere.