The title of this film betrays its true nature, but the fact that A Happening of Monumental Proportions marks the directing debut of actress Judy Greer is something to celebrate. Featuring an impressive ensemble cast, this low-key comedy gets by on a whole lot of charm even when it’s somewhat lacking in actual story.
Written by Gary Lundy, the movie follows a crew of characters, most of whom work at, have kids attending, or otherwise have business at the same school. The film opens with the discovery of the dead body of a janitor, whose corpse must be hastily removed by some administrators before the school opens and Career Day begins. Allison Janney and Rob Riggle are the primary staffers who deal with the body, while waiting for the coroner’s office to come pick him up. In the meantime, the decidedly unhelpful duo of Nat Faxon and Katie Holmes appear as ambulance drivers, annoyed they’ve been called out when there’s no one on the brink of death to save.
The random cast also includes Common as the single father of one of the students. He’s fired from his job just hours before he is set to come in to talk about his career. He’s been having an affair with his assistant (Jennifer Garner) and is let go after a bogus investigation into vandalism at the office points to him as the guilty party, with an all-too-eager new boss (Bradley Whitford) ready to throw him out. It turns out their kids go to the same school, and Whitford’s harmlessly odd son is having a tough time adjusting to yet another new school. He does get some helpful advice from a depressed music teacher (Anders Holm), but none of what we’re seeing and even occasionally laughing at, amounts to much in the end.
With single-scene appearances by the likes of John Cho, Kumail Nanjiani and even Keanu Reeves, it’s very easy to get lost in the star power in Monumental Proportions, but when all is said and done, I found myself wondering what the purpose of it all was. I certainly wasn’t bored by it all, since it includes some of my favorite performers in various-sized roles. But you want a first-time director to make a stronger statement than this out of the gate, certainly from someone who has as many great performances in her filmography as Greer does. The film is certainly not a colossal failure but it is something of a disappointment.
The film opens today for a week-long run at Facets Cinémathèque.
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