Last night Zach Galifianakis helped close an opening weekend of showings and conversations about Nick Offerman's film and 2012 SXSW darling Somebody Up There Likes Me at Cinefamily. Offerman, the film's producer and co-star, brought out the likes of Jason Schwartzmann, Chris Pratt, and Galifianakis over the course of the weekend to trade quiet musings and add a little star power to the film's release.
“I love the movie, it has a lot of very beautiful women in it…and also some guys…,” said Offerman mugging at the fact that his wife Megan Mullally had a small but hilarious role as an absurd therapist. “I think he really has a smart sense of humor through which he protects his heart from the world,” he said earnestly of writer-director Bob Byington. To which Galifianakis responded, “Woah.”
I don't think Zach was quite so prepared for candor. Or maybe he was.
And the film itself had that very same quality where serious doesn't go too far before absurd takes over, and then returns to serious, and so forth. Thankfully, Somebody Up There Likes Me is mostly an absurdist inversion of the cloyingly annoying mumblecore movement. It's actually pretty easy to confuse the two if you're not paying close enough attention, but Byington is too smart and Offerman too funny to get stuck in that syrupy mumble-bucket.
The story skips through thirty-five years in the perpetually emotionally stagnant life of Max Youngman, artfully played by Keith Poulson, his best and only friend Sal (Offerman), and the woman they both kind of want to be with. As they stagger through misguided relationships — punctuated by animated Bob Sabiston vignettes and a light, bouncy score from Vampire Weekend's Chris Baio — there's a joyless indifferent quality to their meanderings even as the jokes flow.
The film opens with Offerman's poignant observation, “I think it's funny we all sort of think we're not gonna die.” Then there's the introduction of a mysterious fountain-of-youth McGuffin suitcase that casts an animated blue glow upon Max. We get to watch as Max, remarkably, never visibly ages. For all his foibles and ups and downs, marked by neat five-year increments, he looks the same and yet remains as emotionally retarded as he is from the outset. It causes us to wonder: is that the point? We can chase a youthful visage and pursue wealth, but remain hopelessly lacking in wisdom? Age is no substitute for perspicacity? What's really in the suitcase, Nick!?
“Well, there was a sequence after the credits that got cut,” Offerman explained to an audience member who asked the very same question. “It says '40 years earlier' and it just shows my character just jerking off into the suitcase. So it's really full of sparkly blue jizz.”
Exactly what we were thinking.
Offerman truly stole what show there was from Galifinakis in that sense. When asked about the trials and tribulations of being a producer, Offerman's main complaints were gustatory rather than activity-based. “If anyone has any influence in Austin, can you please open up a place that serves good food between midnight and 6 a.m.? At least with some decent fucking bacon,” he bitched. “They can even call it that, 'Decent Fucking Bacon',” Galifianakis suggested.
Shooting in July in Austin probably didn't help Offerman's nutritional discomfort. “Yeah, the weather in July keeps everyone really…lubricated,” he said. “Fortunately, this is not a very high energy kind of comedy and I think that exhaustion kind of serves the humor in a film like this.”
When asked about attempts at efficiency and maintaining a legitimately healthy day-to-day, he answered, “It's expensive to do that, to have a whole team of people managing your nutrition and your schedule. I mean, I just ate a lot of barbecue.”
And isn't that why everyone gets into the production game?
Exhaustion and barbecue aside, the film comes off as a great success for Offerman, Byington and their cohorts — the perfect askew counterpunch to a bothersome cutesy twee and murmuring ten-year trend in independent film. Maybe that's what's in the suitcase? The death of mumblecore. Either way, we suggest washing your hands if you do come into contact with it.
In addition to running at Cinefamily through Thursday, Somebody Up There Likes Me continues its weekend tour of cities with arty people in San Francisco, New York, Denver, and then closing in Austin on April 5, all with Offerman in tow.