Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
Sidney Lumet's "Bye Bye Braverman" is a good movie gone wrong. Its premise was promising: Four liberal Jewish intellectuals learn that one of their friends, Leslie Braverman, has dropped dead at the untimely age of 41. They set off together in a Volkswagen to attend his funeral, but at some time during that long Sunday afternoon their trip turns into an odyssey of unfulfilled ambition, bittersweet comedy and the fear of death.
We never met Braverman. But we meet his bitchy wife (Jessica Walter), whose "sophisticated" cruel treatment of her daughter gives us a hint of what Braverman had to put up with. And we meet his friends: George Segal, a public relations man; Joseph Wiseman, a Norman Thomas socialist; Sorrell Booke, a compulsively tidy writer, and Jack Warden, an aging playboy.
When they learn of Braverman's death, they meet in Greenwich Village and drive to Brooklyn. They can't quite find the funeral, but they run across strange creatures: Godfrey Cambridge, as a sort of black Jewish taxi driver; Alan King, as a rabbi; and a strange lady at the wrong funeral. They also pass a lot of colorful real estate, lovingly photographed by Lumet, who also goes up in a helicopter to show the Volkswagen scurrying under overpasses.
Segal, the central character, has fantasies of his own failure and death. It would be better to die young, he muses, than to die in the middle of things at 41. Better to do nothing at all than to get stopped halfway. He ponders these questions as they search for Leslie Braverman, departed.