After several decades of acting and a few more recent years of series television directing, the charming Lea Thompson (Back to the Future) is taking her first crack at feature directing. She’s keeping things close to home, working from a script written by daughter Madelyn Deutch about finding her purpose in the months immediately following her college graduation. The Year of Spectacular Men is a “fictional” account of that time in in the life of Izzy Klein (Madelyn), which includes breaking up with her college boyfriend and hooking up with a handful of interesting men who all turn out to be duds in some way.
Izzy (much like real-life Madelyn) has a sister, Sabrina (played by real sister Zoey Deutch), an up-and-coming actress and model who is usually eager to help Izzy, but is also quite demanding and high maintenance due to her workload and growing popularity. Her actor boyfriend Sebastian (Avan Jogia) seems like a cool dude most of the time, and attempts to straddle the line between being a good boyfriend and keeping the peace between Sabrina and her mother in times of strife.
Thompson (who just happens to be mother to both of these women) plays their mother, who herself has started dating women (beginning with a lovely younger woman named Amythyst, played by Melissa Bolona) after their father died three years earlier. Everyone is searching for direction and purpose in their lives, but mostly that comes across as a whole lot of screeching, giggling, and greeting card life lessons that are cringe worthy when said out loud, which happens far too often in this movie.
The Year of Spectacular Men felt like a nonstop exercise in trying my patience—from the unbearable, rambling, pointless screenplay to every actor in this film trying to convince us that something deep is going on here. Lord, save me from the children of celebrities trying to convince me that their life is difficult because they can’t find the perfect boyfriend.
The worst outcome of watching this work is that we spend nearly two hours with this family and learn virtually nothing about them except that the dad killed himself, making him the most identifiable character in the movie. I’m fairly certain I disliked every minute of these self-indulgent home movies attempting to pass for intimacy and life lessons. I happen to think Zoey Deutch is a genuinely strong actress whose best work is still ahead of her, but even she can’t save this claptrap.
The film opens today for a weeklong run at Facets Cinémathèque.