If you ever pass the time between classes or during lunch breaks by watching collections of Vines you’ll know names like King Bach, Thomas Sanders, Amanda Cerny, Josh Peck, Brittany Furlan and dozens of others, many of them so popular online they’re getting deals from networks and cable channels to produce their own shows.
Two of them that always show up in Best Of collections – Jason Nash and Brendan Calvillo – have now made the leap to feature length in FML (for anyone not cool enough to know the digital lingo, that’s F*%k My Life).
Writer/director Nash stars as Sam, a middle-aged family man who’s trying to make a name for himself on the popular social media video sharing tool Reload. Sam’s kind of a pathetic figure, deeply in love with his wife (Busy Phillips) and a great dad to his kids, but who feels increasing pressure to make his mark in showbiz because of his advancing years (a very game Nash is the butt of plenty of jokes about how old he looks), increasingly desperate and undignified about doing so.
With his long-suffering but supportive wife’s blessing, he suggests a road trip across America to sullen Henry (Calvillo), a 19-year-old with far more followers than Sam could ever hope for but who has a similar lack of prospects living with his mother and creepy stepdad.
Henry reluctantly agrees (secretly hoping to hit it off with a female Reload star he’s holding a torch for) and the perpetually optimistic Sam and he form an odd couple partnership as they drive across the country. Their strategy is to partner up with some of the biggest stars on Reload including wannabe Bieber/gangster Swagg (Bart Baker), the vacuous fashion maven Melissa Dinkers (Manon Mathews) and a host of other extreme personalities in order to ride their coattails to success and get more followers.
In hindsight, the plot is fairly episodic and the resolution of Sam and Henry’s stories both a little bit pat and nothing you haven’t seen before (love will save us, our family is the real gift, etc), but when you’re actually watching it, FML is so well made none of that matters.
First, Nash has written an extremely funny script that sketches out some very cleverly drawn characters and throws them together in just the right way for them to spark and zing off each other.
But the real surprise (and pleasure) is the performances. These are mostly people who’ve honed their craft in sex second comedy clips, and when you watch those half hour collections of them online, they certainly don’t all work.
But you’re completely unprepared for what accomplished comic pros they all are over the 90 minutes of a full-length movie. One or two of the characterisations (like Swagg) start to grate a little bit on their own, but almost everyone in the cast has a grasp of comic timing and chemistry you’re completely unprepared for.
Despite the familiarity in the characters of Sam and Henry, watching Nash and Calvillo together is a treat – you’re constantly waiting for another hilarious throwaway line that’s easy to write but very hard to deliver properly. They’re not the only ones with such easy chemistry either – the hospital sequence with Mathews as the ditzy Reload star being led by her ‘publicisstant’ is classic.
The history of half hour TV shows that stumbled when stretched out to feature length (South Park, The Flintstones, The A Team, etc) is long, and the idea that anyone used to six second clips could sustain such snappy comedy for an hour and a half was always going to be a tall order.
But if FML is autobiographical and Nash – like his character Sam – is determined to forge a career to Hollywood stardom, he couldn’t have created a better calling card to do so.