Review: ‘The Right One,’ starring Nick Thune, Cleopatra Coleman and Iliza Shlesinger

February 13, 2021

by Carla Hay

Nick Thune and Cleopatra Coleman in “The Right One” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The Right One”

Directed by Ken Mok

Culture Representation: Taking place in Seattle, the romantic comedy “The Right One” features a predominantly white cast (with some black people and Asians) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A romance novelist is attracted to an elusive man who has multiple personality disorder.

Culture Audience: “The Right One” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching flimsy romance stories with unappealing characters and offensive ways of depicting mental illness.

Iliza Shlesinger and Cleopatra Coleman in “The Right One” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

Even without the ridiculous and offensive way that mental illness is handled in “The Right One,” the movie fails to meet the basic requirement of a romantic comedy: believable chemistry between the would-be couple. Written and directed by Ken Mok (who’s best known as an executive producer of “America’s Top Model”), “The Right One” is a tedious and not-very-funny slog of a story that badly mishandles this concept: A romance novelist falls for a guy who has multiple personality disorder. And she thinks he doesn’t need psychiatric help or any therapy, but that her love is enough to “cure” him. Try not to gag at this disgustingly irresponsible attitude toward mental illness.

In “The Right One,” the clueless romance novelist who ends up thinking that she’s qualified to cure someone’s multiple personality disorder is Sara (played by Cleopatra Coleman), a 31-year-old with the emotional maturity of a 17-year-old. The movie takes place in Seattle, but was actually filmed in British Columbia. For more than a year, Sara hasn’t been dating anyone and has been celibate, ever since her ex-boyfriend Simon (played by Nykeem Provo) dumped her because they didn’t agree on parenting issues and he wanted to be with another woman. Sara wants to eventually become a parent, while Simon told her he didn’t feel the same way.

When viewers first see Sara, she’s reluctantly at a trendy art gallery party with her obnoxious agent/best friend Kelly (played by Iliza Shlesinger), who insists that Sara has to start dating again. Kelly is loud, bossy and abrasive. And Kelly seems to care more about how much money Sara can make for Kelly than she cares about Sara as a human being. As seen later in the movie, Kelly is the type of horrible boss who yells insults at subordinates, throws things in the office, and makes her male administrative assistant paint her toenails.

Meanwhile, Sara is still pining over Simon and bitter about the breakup, but she doesn’t really want to admit it. At the party, Sara notices a man who’s about 10 years older than she is, and he looks like an uptight and pretentious art critic giving a lecture about some of the art on display. By the way that Sara looks at him, it’s easy to see that she’s immediately attracted to him.

Just minutes after that, Sara sees the same guy, dressed in different clothes and wearing a different hairstyle, in another room. This time, he’s acting like a hipster bohemian type, who jumps around with enthusiasm while talking to another group of people about the art on the wall. By the way, it’s a very quick-change transformation into these two different personas. Who does he think he is? Superman?

Is he an actor? Does he have an identical twin? Is he doing some kind of performance art? No. His name is Godfrey (played by Nick Thune), whose psychological problems are so serious that he’s been living his life as several different people. Sara doesn’t find out what Godfrey’s real name is until much later in the story. Until then, she meets his many personalities. And this movie wants people to believe that Godfrey’s mental illness will stop just because Sara is now in his life and she wants to “save” him. Retch.

The next time Sara sees Godfrey, he’s performing as a country singer busker on the street. He calls himself Cowboy Cody (and he says it a straight face) and speaks to her with a Southern twang when she inevitably approaches him and says, “I know you from somewhere.” When Sara figures out that he’s the same chameleon whom she saw at the art gallery party, he insists that she’s wrong and that his name is Cowboy Cody.

This back-and-forth goes on for a few minutes, but it seems like longer. Sara can’t get him to admit that he’s the same person she saw at the party. Sara makes it clear that she wants to see him again. But Cowboy Cody is about to hop on a bus, so he hands her a flyer showing when and where his next performance is going to be. And you know that Sara will be there.

After having this street encounter with Cowboy Cody, Sara excitedly tells Kelly that she no longer has writer’s block and has decided on the plot for her next romance novel “Chastity,” which Sara has to finish on a tight deadline (three months) because she’s been procrastinating. Sara tells Kelly that the novel’s female protagonist falls for a mysterious guy who has several different personalities, and this heroine will try to figure out which of his personalities is the real one. And guess how Sara going to research this book?

Kelly is very self-absorbed, but even Kelly knows that it’s a bad idea for Sara to get involved with someone who has mental health problems that Sara isn’t equipped to handle. Kelly advises Sara not to fall in love with this mystery man but only get to know him as research if it will help Sara finish the book on time. But Sara and this movie will not be stopped in their misguided quest to make it seem like all someone like Godfrey needs is the love of a good woman to cure him of his mental illness. It’s a concept that’s shoved in viewers’ faces in the most obnoxious ways.

There’s a minor subplot of Kelly setting up Sara on a blind date with a nice guy named Ben (played by Anthony Shim), who’s an artist. Sara and Ben’s first date together is somewhat awkward because Sara tells weird jokes that don’t land well at all. Still, Ben asks Sara out on a second date, and tells her they can go wherever she’d like. She suggests that they go to the nightclub where Cowboy Cody says he’ll be performing next.

But the person performing at this nightclub isn’t Cowboy Cody. It’s Godfrey in drag, wearing a blonde wig and a long dress. This time, he’s a spoken-word artist named Allie Cornbush, who does an act that’s part comedy, part avant-garde performance. Sara loves it and cheers enthusiastically, while Ben is not impressed and thinks the whole act is bizarre.

Sara is so infatuated with this chameleon, that after the performance, she follows him outside of the club, thereby ditching Ben without even a goodbye. How rude. At this point, Sara is acting like a pathetic groupie, because she begs Godfrey (who’s now dressed as a man, in jeans and a hoodie) to let her tag along with him wherever he’s going. Slow down. You just met him.

She then follows him into a dark alley, where he surprises her with two oversized, glowing helmets shaped liked cat heads—one for him, and one for her. They go to a nightclub, where yet another persona for Godfrey emerges. This time, he’s a DJ who calls himself Katamine (rhyming with ketamine), who’s an obvious ripoff of real-life DJs who wear oversized mask helmets as part of their act, such as Deadmau5 and Marshmello. DJ Katamine is very popular with the crowd, and Sara ends up on stage with him too. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

But that’s not all. Godfrey has other personalities and other jobs, which makes you wonder why Sara thinks he would have time to date her when he has all these different lives that he’s leading. Godfrey also teaches a reading class for kindergarten-age students at what looks like a library. They call him Mr. G there.

And he also works as a high-ranking salesperson for an unnamed corporate company, where he’s nicknamed G-Money. He does most of his sales over the phone, where he has more personas that he fabricates with clients in order to close a deal. His office persona as G-Money is as an eccentric who shows up for work with spiked hair like a punk rocker, dressed like a surfer, and wearing no shoes. It’s the opening scene in the movie.

Godfrey is allowed to dress this way in a corporate environment (while his office colleagues have to wear suits) because he outperforms all the other sales staffers by 364%. That’s according to what a fellow employee tells the visiting head honcho Bob Glasser (played by David Koechner), who has arrived to evaluate the sales department and boost their productivity. In an early scene in the movie, Godfrey (aka G-Money) is able to charm Bob because they’re both fans of the jam-rock band Blues Traveler.

Meanwhile, Sara tries to keep seeing Godfrey as much as she can, even though she still doesn’t know what his real name is or anything substantial about him. She keeps a journal of all her encounters with him, as if she’s a love detective. And her attempts to get close to him hit a snag when a thuggish-looking guy in his 20s tells Sara that she needs to stay away from Godfrey.

It turns out that this guy’s name is Shad (played by M.J. Kokolis), and he’s Godfrey’s foster brother. Godfrey’s reason for his multiple personality disorder is eventually revealed in the movie. Needless to say, Sara ignores Shad’s demands to stop seeing Godfrey. She comments to Shad about Godfrey: “I know that I don’t know him, but I feel like inside, there’s this special, sweet person.”

Later in the movie, Godfrey has somewhat of a meltdown at one of his jobs, and he’s in danger of being fired. However, Shad and Sara go to talk to Godfrey’s boss, who thinks that Godfrey should get a psychiatric evaluation and professional help for his obvious mental-health problems. But then, in the worst scene in the movie, Sara has the idiotic nerve to lecture this boss and say: “Godfrey isn’t mentally unstable … He doesn’t need a psych evaluation. He needs support and time to process what he’s going through.”

Before Godfrey’s freak-out on the job, he and Sara had gone on a ballroom dancing date. During the date, his persona was Matteo, who claimed to be from Argentina but actually spoke in a weird mashup of a German/Spanish accent. As far as Sara and this awful movie is concerned, getting professional help for Godfrey’s mental health isn’t important because it would interrupt Sara’s girlish fantasies of being romanced by this very obviously messed-up person.

There’s almost nothing to root for with this would-be couple, when this movie can’t even grasp the concepts of true love and how mental illness should be handled by people who really care about the mentally ill person. Coleman and Thune have zero chemistry together. Thune looks ridiculous in about half of his personas in this movie. His uneven performance as the joyless Godfrey looks like Thune is somewhat embarrassed to be there.

Meanwhile, Coleman has terrible comedic timing in many of her scenes. She also has a way of over-emoting that’s very annoying. This cringeworthy style of acting is most apparent in a scene that takes place in a park, where Sara unexpectedly runs into her ex-boyfriend Simon and his wife Allegra (played by Leanne Lapp), who is pregnant. Allegra is the woman whom Simon got together with after he broke up with Sara.

Simon and Allegra seem very happy about this pregnancy. Meanwhile, jealous Sara is shocked to see that Simon has changed his mind about being a parent. Sara spitefully tells Allegra that Simon said he didn’t want to be a father when he and Sara were a couple. Sara also makes a body-shaming comment to Allegra, by telling Allegra that her pregnancy makes her look “big.”

It’s unknown if writer/director Mok consulted with enough women before he wrote the atrocious screenplay for this movie, which is clearly targeted to a mostly-female audience. If he had, he would’ve heard that women (and movie audiences in general) enjoy romantic comedies the best when the people in these movies don’t act delusional, air-headed and degrading to other people when it comes to finding true love. And it’s become a boring and unimaginative cliché when romantic comedies have a scenario of women being catty to each other because of a man.

The tacky and unrealistic way that relationship issues are handled in this movie is not only an insult to women but also anyone who’s suffering from mental illnesses. In addition to horrible casting choices and sloppy direction, “The Right One” disregards the severity of a mental illness such as multiple personality disorder. The way it’s portrayed in the movie, multiple personality disorder is just a phase that someone can “get over” if the right person comes along to give them love. Well, there’s one way to “get over” a bad romantic comedy like “The Right One”: Just don’t watch it.

Lionsgate released “The Right One” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on February 5, 2021, and on Blu-ray and DVD on February 9, 2021.

Review: ‘The Argument,’ starring Dan Fogler, Emma Bell, Danny Pudi, Maggie Q, Tyler James Williams and Cleopatra Coleman

September 25, 2020

by Carla Hay

Dan Fogler and Emma Bell in “The Argument” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

“The Argument”

Directed by Robert Schwartzman

Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles, the romantic comedy “The Argument” features a racially diverse cast (white, black and Asian) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A playwright and his actress girlfriend, with the help of some of their friends and random strangers, recreate an argument that the couple had to determine who was correct in the argument.

Culture Audience: “The Argument” will primarily appeal to people who like over-the-top, fast-paced comedies with many unrealistic moments but enough wacky sensibilities to keep people watching to see how it all ends.

Tyler James Williams and Cleopatra Coleman in “The Argument” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

The absurdist romantic comedy “The Argument” will test the patience of many viewers who are looking for a more conventional way that love and relationships are depicted in the story’s plot. The movie suffers when the “repeat loop” part of the story is focused only on the six main characters. But “The Argument” is at its best during “casting session/script reading” scenes in the last third of the movie, when random strangers are introduced to the main characters and turn the movie into many laugh-out-loud moments that are sly commentaries about ego posturing and stereotypes in relationships.

Directed with a madcap pace by Robert Schwartzman and written by Zac Stanford, “The Argument” (which takes place in Los Angeles) centers on an artistic couple named Jack (played by Dan Fogler) and Lisa (played by Emma Bell), who live together in a modest Hollywood home. Jack is a playwright/screenwriter, and Lisa is an actress. They’ve been dating each other for three years.

It’s revealed later in the movie that Jack and Lisa met through a fairly obscure horror movie that Jack wrote called “The Dead Doth Trod the Hills at Night.” Lisa had a small background role as a zombie in the movie. Jack’s most recent project is an independent play called “Wolfgang,” which has Lisa as the leading female role of Constanze, the wife of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The play has a modern comedic tone to it, and it’s recently ended its run at a small theater. Based on the number of people in the audience for the last show, the play’s attendance was fairly good, but not great.

The biggest problem that Jack had with the play is how Lisa and the vain actor who was cast as Mozart seemed just a little too flirtatious with each on stage and off stage. The actor’s name is Paul (played by Tyler Christopher Williams), and Jack is jealous because Paul is younger and better-looking than Jack is. Jack’s suspicion that Lisa and Paul are sexually attracted to each other is a nagging thought that he’s kept to himself, but it later explodes in messy and uncomfortable ways in other parts of the story.

Now that the play is over, Jack thinks he and Lisa won’t have to deal with Paul anymore. After the last night of “Wolfgang,” Jack plans to have a small cocktail party at his and Lisa’s home. Jack has invited his and Lisa’s two closest friends—married couple Brett and Sarah—to celebrate.

Brett (played by Danny Pudi) is Jack’s eager-to-please literary agent. Sarah (played by Maggie Q) is an entertainment lawyer with an icy demeanor and a photographic memory. Jack has another intention for the party, which is pretty obvious in the message that he sends to Brett and Sarah: Jack is going to propose to Lisa.

When Sarah and Brett show up for the party, Brett is happy to be there, but Sarah seems very uninterested. She explains that she has to get up early in the morning because she has an important contract negotiation meeting the next day. Sarah was the attorney who negotiated the overseas rights to “The Dead Doth Trod the Hills at Night,” but she’s frustrated that Jack hasn’t been a lucrative client for Brett.

Sarah blames Jack and Brett for Jack not being able to get much work as a writer. None of Jack’s screenplays has sold since “The Dead Doth Trod the Hills at Night.” Sarah thinks that Jack isn’t very talented and that Brett isn’t a great agent. By contrast, Brett is in awe of Jack and isn’t ready to give up on him so easily. At one point during the party, Brett gushes in Jack’s presence that Jack “isn’t just a great writer … he’s a genius.”

The party is interrupted by two guests whom Jack did not expect: Paul and his ditzy Australian girlfriend Trina (played by Cleopatra Coleman), who soon finds out that she’s not the only one who’s suspected that there’s been sexual tension between Paul and Lisa. Jack is very surprised to see Paul and Trina at his door, but he lets them in because he doesn’t want to be rude and because he finds out that Lisa invited them.

Jack takes Lisa aside for a private conversation in their dining room, and they briefly argue about Paul being at the party. (Observant viewers might notice that the dining room walls in the movie have posters of Schwartzman’s first two movies that he directed: 2016’s “Dreamland” and 2018’s “The Unicorn.”) Lisa insists that she told Jack in advance that Paul would be there. Jack is equally insistent that Lisa never told him, because if she had, he would’ve remembered. They reach a stalemate but agree that Paul might as well stay at the party.

As the party goes on, Jack gets more and more irritated because Lisa and Paul keep re-enacting flirtatious and sexually suggestive scenes from the play in front of everyone. Lisa and Paul think it’s hilarious, but Jack obviously doesn’t. Meanwhile, Sarah looks very bored, Brett tries to keep things friendly with everyone, and Trina starts drinking enough alcohol to get tipsy and overly talkative. Trina mentions that she and Paul (who has a day job as a fitness instructor) got together as a couple because she signed up for one of his fitness classes, in the hopes that he would notice her and want to date her.

It turns out that Trina is a big fan of “The Dead Doth Trod the Hills at Night” and she actually remembers Lisa’s role in the film. Trina gushes like a fangirl about the movie, which endears her to Jack and Lisa. However, Paul continues to get on Jack’s nerves. When Jack serves a charcuterie board at the party, Paul says he can’t eat almost anything that’s served at the party because he’s a vegan and he’s on a strict diet for a fitness commercial that he’s about to film. Jack is also baking an apple pie, which he plans to serve as dessert.

As the night wears on, Paul and Trina grow more uncomfortable with Lisa and Paul’s flirtatious shenanigans in front of everyone. Jack starts rambling about Antonio Salieri, Mozart’s rival who was famously jealous of Mozart’s talent, fame and accolades. Lisa makes a seemingly innocuous remark that Jack “isn’t really comfortable with the word ‘genius.'”

Jack interprets the comment to mean that Lisa doesn’t think that Jack isn’t very smart, so he shouts at her, “That’s not funny!” The argument between Jack and Lisa escalates to the point when Jack ends up taking the apple pie out of the oven and throws it on the ground. And the party abruptly ends.

The next morning, Jack and Lisa are in bed and they continue to argue about what happened the previous night. “I wish I could redo the whole night so you could see how wrong you are!” Lisa shouts. Jack says the same thing to her. And then they have an “aha” moment and decide to recreate the party and have the guests decide if Jack or Lisa was the one was in the wrong.

The middle section of “The Argument” is a little hard to take because of the shrill and annoying ways that the party is recreated. Because the movie makes it clear from the beginning that it’s an absurdist comedy, viewers will have to suspend their disbelief that Jack and Lisa’s party guests have nothing better to do with their time than go through with these ridiculous re-enactments. Trina shows up hung over, and she reluctantly agrees to get drunk again for every re-enactment. Jack even goes as far as preparing the same food over and over again every time they do a re-enactment.

Of course, the re-enactments don’t go smoothly because no one (except for Sarah, who has a photographic memory) can remember exactly how they acted and what they said the first time the party happened. Because everyone goes “off-script” at one point or another, it leads to more tension and arguments.

Sarah’s jaded attitude becomes even more apparent when Trina says being an entertainment lawyer must be glamorous, and Sarah’s deadpan response is, “It’s just a job. I don’t even like movies.” Eventually, Sarah gets fed up with the re-enactments and leaves.

“The Argument” finally starts to improve in the last third of the movie, when the party guests find out that Jack has put an ad on Craiglist to get actors (whose character names are not revealed in the movie) to come to his and Lisa’s home and to portray the party guests during these re-enactments, with the original party guests (except for Sarah) in attendance. Jack has even written a script, which is heavily skewed with his biased perspective.

The actors who answered the Craigslist ad have been told that it’s supposed to be an audition/read-through, with Jack being the one to decide who will play which role. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Jack casts the best-looking “hunky” guy of the auditionees to portray Jack, who’s written as the hero of the story. (The role of Actor Jack is played by Mark Ryder.)

Actor Trina is an ultra-liberal, ultra-politically correct African American activist (played by Marielle Scott), who over-exaggerates and bungles the real Trina’s Australian accent, which offends Trina. Actor Lisa (played by Charlotte McKinney) is a big-breasted blonde who has her bikini photos on hand, while Lisa is offended that Jack wants a “bimbo” to portray her.

Actor Brett (played by Karan Brar) pretty much agrees with everyone, while the real Brett is offended that he’s being portrayed as a pushover without a mind of his own. Meanwhile, since Sarah isn’t there, Jack decides that Actor Brett can use a sock puppet to portray Sarah. Actor Paul (played by Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) is a loudmouth wannabe rapper (who wears gold chains), which offends the real Paul, who’s nothing like this walking racial stereotype, but Actor Paul ends up upstaging everyone in the room.

What Jack has written in the script is read aloud by the auditionees to hilarious results, because it reveals Jack’s perceptions and opinions of everyone at the party. If this “script reading” part of the plot had been put earlier in the movie, the quality of “The Argument” would have been much higher.

Fogler and Coleman handle the slapstick scenes fairly well, while Williams makes great use of facial expressions. All of the actors playing the “auditionees” are very good and bring much-needed spark to the movie. Stewart-Jarrett is the movie’s biggest scene stealer, since he’s easily the funniest part of this movie, whose comedic scenes are hit and miss.

Fogler, Bell, Pudi, Q, Williams and Coleman are talented, but the way the characters are written tend to become one-note caricatures by the middle of the film. Having other actors come into the story to portray those characters is a clever send-up that works well. The discomfort that the real Jack, Lisa, Brett, Paul and Trina feel at seeing how other people portray them is actually funny, whereas the original argument between Lisa and Jack wasn’t that funny. There’s an almost British sensibility to this “script within a script” parody.

Because director Schwartzman moves the pace of “The Argument” along fairly quickly, it’s easier to take the cringeworthy aspects of the movie. For example, some of the people in “The Argument” over-act—and not in a good way that was intended by the screenplay. And there’s some physical comedy that could have been choreographed better.

The Jack character can be very grating with his “control freak” insecurities and insistence on always being right. Lisa is also irritating with her tendency to be self-absorbed and not very empathetic to other people’s feelings. Some viewers might find it hard to root for this couple.

“The Argument” can best be appreciated when the main characters (and their flaws) are put up to a proverbial mirror and they see how complete strangers (who are wannabe actors) perceive and act out their personalities. Sarah eventually finds out that Jack cast her as a sock puppet, and so her reaction (which isn’t as funny as it could’ve been) is also part of the movie’s plot. If people are willing to keep watching “The Argument” until the “script reading” scenes, it will be worth the wait, because those scenes redeem what could have been a completely annoying movie.

Gravitas Ventures released “The Argument” on digital and VOD on September 4, 2020.