Michael Cera holds a special place in our hearts as George Michael Bluth on Arrested Development and as Ellen Page’s baby daddy in Juno and basically as a bunch of similarly awkward guys. People have started to wonder if Cera will ever be able to put that character type behind him and make a more mature career for himself. After watching the short film he co-wrote and directed, I would like to suggest he do more work behind the camera, because I am impressed.
Cera created a YouTube channel called JASH last month with the likes of Sarah Silverman, and people weren’t really sure what kind of videos would come out of it. Now that I’ve seen Brazzaville Teen-Ager, I can’t wait to see what JASH has in store. I could get used to Michael Cera the Director.
The plot is definitely weird. It’s based on a story by Bruce Jay Friedman, who also wrote movies like Splash and co-wrote the film with Cera. The basic premise of Cera’s interpretation is as follows (and bear with me here): A young man comes to believe that his sick father will get better if he convinces his boss to sing back-up on a Kelis song. That’s right, Kelis whose milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. When I first read the premise, I was expecting some kind of zany, laugh-worthy project. But I was so surprised and so impressed.
The film is strange, definitely, but it’s also very understated and sweet. As an actor, Cera still has that awkward, stumbley way about him that we’re used to, but we get to see a different side of him here, and I think he’s a good dramatic actor. As far as direction goes, I thought it was a really well-put-together short. It lags in places, and could probably stand to be shorter (it’s almost 20 minutes), but I enjoyed the use of long takes, natural-sounding dialogue and disorienting off-screen sound. It doesn’t go out of its way to be super-artsy, like you might expect from a young actor turned director. Basically, it’s not some incomprehensible, creepy James Franco-esque project. It also just plain tugged at my heart strings.
The film also stars Charles Grodin, Jack O’Connell, and Himanshu Suri from Das Racist. Oh, and also Kelis, of course.
Until Michael Cera’s next directorial effort, I’ll be waiting around to see more George Michael next month.
You can watch the whole film below, and cross your fingers that this means more from Director Cera. I definitely just became a fan.