“Understated” isn’t a word you’d ordinarily use to describe a Jerry Bruckheimer production, but that’s surprisingly what 12 Strong ends up being.
Max Landis has made a career of writing genre movies that must have had some good pitches—in less than five years, five of his scripts have been made into features. It's very curious watching "Me Him Her," then, as to why he would pick probably his worst produced screenplay, a rough draft in nearly every sense, for a directorial debut. For a studio-trained writer, it turns out to be an amateur rebellion against form.
Brandon Ehrlick (Luke Bracey) is the big Hollywood star of TV series "Hard Justice," who is afraid of coming out of the closet. Somewhere else in the City of Angels, Gabbi (Emily Meade) is having trouble breaking up with her cheating ex-girlfriend. It's the third person to this equation who sets them both off on paths of discovery, Dustin Milligan's tacky, altruistic Cory, who might have wayward ways of helping people, but he will be right in the end.
Within the first 15 minutes, Cory tries to help Brandon in accepting himself by dragging him to a gay bar, an effort he ditches when he meets the dejected Gabbi, while Brandon is then hounded by paparazzi. Cory and Gabbi hit it off, and as happens in stories told with straight male gaze, they sleep together. A barely-there storyline then drags to 95 minutes as we barely get to know these people outside of their sexual preferences, or whether their faces are on billboards or not. The performances lend themselves to the superficiality of these characters, with an exception of Meade, who stands out for providing some full-force meltdowns, an unfortunate and redundant expression in Landis' cinematic world.
As it works to have Milligan's tacky lead fix these people for themselves, "Me Him Her" sets itself inside Landis' hate-hate relationship with Los Angeles. He indifferently uses overhead shots of the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign for visual familiarity, but not character. A satire of sorts about the smug that's in the air of Hollywood, Landis' weak jabs about LA and its inhabitants lack the cleverness for their sarcasm to engage. Hollywood agents are superficial, Los Angeles is unpredictable, and Haley Joel Osment (playing himself) is a huge star again.
Instead of settling for an unfunny comedy about friends and lovers in LA, Landis has to get political with material the script has no authority for. With the naive Corey at the center influencing everyone's lives, "Me Him Her" wields a straight man’s privilege. Cory can help force a gay man out of the closet, not because his friends and family already know Brandon is gay (to Brandon’s constant surprise), but because it's not Cory's career or life to deal with, despite Landis' establishment of a homophobic Hollywood. In the same way that "Me Him Her" bungles its initially refreshing friendship between straight and gay men, the film's romance is even more teeth-gnashing. With Gabby always dressed in flannel ("a lesbian's Power Ranger costume," the script jokes) and her saying that men never want to be just her friend, the problematic character only makes it worse when Cory woos her with his heterosexuality. "Me Him Her" unwittingly resists an audience, its heart not invisible just profoundly out of touch.
In "Me Him Her," both Brandon and Gabby have brief nightmares about being tormented by a giant puppet penis, to give you a sense of the film's humor and means of expressing it. Brandon's line earlier in the film that "the line between dreams and reality is thinner here" becomes a copout for Landis' jokes, which cranks up wackiness (a climactic sword fight during a cop drama's premiere party) or its confrontations, such as the pithy screwball between Cory and Gabby as he chases her across Beverly Hills, only to have them scream in public about their very private encounter. Like the stylized subtitles it sporadically throws onto the screen to put pepper on throwaway lines, "Me Him Her" often lurches with a cartoonish impulse to keep itself amused, providing a false feeling of narrative momentum in the process.
Only a fool would define the term "hipster," but such a category’s elements would describe Landis' filmmaking: entitled angst, sarcastic tone, self-declared enlightenment, and, of course, irony ad infinitum. "Me Him Her" might look cool on the outside, but it's a vapid mess.
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