The Big Ask (Teddy Bears) (NR)

Comedy 90 min. May 30, 2014
By Michael Nordine
More notable for its premise than the execution thereof, The Big Ask stars the perennially underused David Krumholtz as Andrew, a bereaved son who gathers his two best friends in a rented desert house to ask whether he can sleep with their girlfriends. Said girlfriends are present for this indecent proposal, as is Andrew's own significant other (Melanie Lynskey), in a fine example of cringe comedy done right. The buddies gradually come to take his request somewhat seriously, although viewers will have a hard time joining them — co-directors Thomas Beatty and Rebecca Fishman don't handle the dramatic as well as they do the pleasingly strange.

This is the latest envisioning of the California desert as a regenerative tabula rasa, one whose howling winds and odd inhabitants change anyone who passes through. But Andrew, for all his expressive weirdness, nevertheless remains as unreachable to us watching as he is to his closest friends. It's a strange thing, beholding a man who's clearly the only one capable of pulling himself out of an emotional tailspin, when, by putting all his eggs in the sleeping-with-his-best-friends'-girlfriends basket, he's refusing to do just that. Such is grief, such is life, but The Big Ask spends so much time wallowing rather than advancing Andrew's or anyone else's emotional arcs that it begins to feel like a nature documentary in which the camera operator observes a helpless animal bleed out without offering any help.
Thomas Beatty, Rebecca Fishman Gillian Jacobs, Zachary Knighton, David Krumholtz, Melanie Lynskey, Ahna O'Reilly, Jason Ritter, Ned Beatty Thomas Beatty Tribeca Films