On the surface, writer-director Ryan Jaffe's road-trip comedy seems to combine two trends: marijuana chic and recent indie films centered on senior citizens. It kicks off with the 89-year-old Estelle (Cloris Leachman) proudly proclaiming herself an asshole. You might get flashbacks to Lily Tomlin's feisty feminist in Grandma, but This Is Happening really feels like a far more mainstream version of Alex Ross Perry's The Color Wheel. Estelle is extraneous to most of its drama, except as a plot device; the narrative is much more concerned with the love-hate relationship between a brother and sister.
Philip (James Wolk) has been prodded by his dad (Judd Nelson) to drive Estelle to a nursing home in Palm Springs. His sister Megan (Mickey Sumner), who spends her days smoking and dealing pot, agrees to come along. After getting high with Megan and crashing into neighbor Cal Plotz's (Rene Auberjonois) car, Estelle takes off for Seattle with five pounds of pot in her trunk. The biggest problem with This Is Happening is its one-dimensional characters: a man who avoids drama and always tries to act responsibly, a woman who spends most of her time stoned in an attempt to escape reality, a grandma with a big mouth. While these people change over the course of the film, they do so only in the most predictable ways. The film is entertaining but overly broad, and if it evokes Alex Ross Perry in some respects, it stays far away from his deep misanthropy.
Ryan JaffeJames Wolk, Mickey Sumner, Rene Auberjonois, Judd Nelson, Cloris LeachmanRyan JaffeScott Einziger, Ryan Jaffe, Lisa Barrett McGuire, Matthew F. WeinbergSeed&Sparkand Paladin Films