Live by Night
The key question behind Live by Night isn’t so much “Why did they bother?” as “What went wrong?”
"The Marc Pease Experience" is a cheerless and almost sullen experience. Not even its staging of a high school production of “The Wiz” can pep it up. It’s badly written and inertly directed, with actors who don’t have a clue what drives their characters. This is one of those rare films that contains no chemistry at all. None. The actors scarcely seem to be in the same scenes together.
For that matter, I can’t think of many titles that are worse. “Marc Pease” is a name that looks like a typo, and Marc has no experience other than allegedly existing during the events of this film. Oh, at the end he becomes more philosophical and human, but that’s just the screenplay jerking his chain. There is no sense that a human is involved.
The movie involves two unpleasant men. There is a young woman who is intended as pleasant but lacks all dimension on the screen, so she is simply filling a blank space labeled “pleasant character.” Both unpleasant men are attracted to this young woman, but there is not a single scene between her and either of them that has the slightest joy, playfulness, affection, credibility or humanity. All three are like bad witnesses who have been coached.
Eight years ago, when he was in high school, Marc Pease (Jason Schwartzman) panicked onstage while playing the Tin Man and ran off the stage and out of the school, screaming. His drama coach, who has the Dickensian name of Mr. Gribble (Ben Stiller), has never forgiven him. Both have designs on Meg Brickman (Anna Kendrick), who is a little young for Marc and inappropriately young for Mr. Gribble. She has a nice singing voice and is coached by Gribble, the lech.