It Is What It Is


Main Cast: Ryan Welch, Jeffrey Hallman

Director: Mike Cunliffe

IHOP breakfast by Jim G

This little brunch snack should tide me over nearly until lunch!

Wonderful news!  My modern version of The Desert Song (new working title Iraqi Idol Idyll) has been offered a slot on the festival circuit.  It’s to be shown on a double with Vera Charles’ new film, also a terribly modern operetta, based on Michael Weller’s Moonchildren.  I think the two films should complement each other quite well and get a new generation hooked on the joys of lush orchestrations, melodramatic plots and glorious Technicolor.  Joseph, my manager, has been on the phone all week talking to Sundance, Cannes and Montreal.  No luck yet but there is a tentative nibble from something called the Sidewalk festival in Birmingham.  Perhaps Normy and I can book passage on the Queen Mary II for our trip to England for that one.  I could use a few days at sea recapturing the glamour of days gone by.  I’d also be happy to provide some lounge entertainment for a reduced price ticket.  Perhaps Cunard might be interested in my set list from my highly successful Sink For Your Supper tour from some years back.

I had to call Vera and talk to her about what a wonderful time we’re going to have together at premiere parties and press junkets but the poor dear was already on her fifth martini at eleven in the morning and it was difficult to get much out of her other than the occasional fit of the giggles.   I did set up a breakfast meeting with her for next week at the West Hollywood IHOP as she shouldn’t be too many sheets to the wind at eight AM.  Two stars of our magnitude brunching together should be good for some paparazzi shots and a page or two in US Weekly.  I’ll have to call my press agents, Garrett and Garrett, and make sure it’s all set up.  I also have to make appointments with my vocal coach Madame Mimi and my tap therapist Lulu Pigg to work out simple a number for me to do on the tops of the tables after the meeting as that might get me the six o’clock news.  I’ll just have to be careful of all those syrup bottles.  Syrup’s horrible for tap shoes.

Well, if I’m going to be off to Birmingham, which I believe is someplace near Leeds, I decided I better take a look at a film which had won awards at its Sidewalk festival before so I turned to the handy google thing and found the film It Is What It Is, an audience favorite from last year, which turned out to be available on my Amazon streaming service.  Normy and I settled into the home theater to see what sort of film it was above and beyond its billing as a romantic comedy.  I’ll have to say it’s mislabeled – it’s comedic, centers around romance, but is nothing like the fluffy Sandra Bullock/Meg Ryan/Julia Roberts films Hollywood has been foisting on us for the last couple of decades.

The film follows the life and loves of a half dozen millennials approaching thirty and maturity in a smaller American city.  As the film opens, we meet Josh (Ryan Welch) who is about to be married to Lara (Callie Mauldin).  His best friend from college, Terry (Jeffrey Hallman) suddenly arrives back in town having heard about the upcoming wedding.  Terry has actually been living the life the two of them dreamed of in college, bumming around Europe and indulging in sex and drugs while Josh buckled down to law school and established a more typical adult life.  The two guys team up with Josh’s current best pal, Rodney (Nick Crawford), a divorced proctologist (I kid you not) and the three embark on a night of bar hopping and soul searching  Meanwhile Lara pals up with Rachel (Sara James), her best friend and Nicki (Amanda Maddox), Josh’s little sister for their own girls night.  Lives collide, secrets are revealed, much alcohol is consumed and by the morning after, life paths are irrevocably altered, whether for the better or not is deliberately left obscure, as life is actually like that.  One can usually only understand it in retrospect.

The film is sort of an anti-Friends.  Ross, Phoebe and the gang could usually solve life’s problems in twenty two minutes with a laugh track.  This group of friends finds that the issues, emotions and compromises of adulthood don’t come with easy answers and resolutions and end their long day’s journey into night with more problems and questions than when they began.  This group also imbibes a lot more alcohol than coffee, often straight from the bottle.  I think this is supposed to be a device to let the characters open up to each other and the audience faster than they might otherwise, but it left me wondering what sort of hangover remedies they were going to employ the next day.

The film is written and directed by Mike Cunliffe from a story by lead actor Ryan Welch (who also produced).  It’s obviously made on a shoestring budget and suffers somewhat from the lack of a Steadicam.  Lots of shots waver somewhat from what I presume is handheld filming.  It’s not as distracting as the craziness of the original The Hunger Games but makes me wish they could have sprung for another tripod.  The script is well constructed and Mr. Cunliffe needs to be given more opportunities to exercise his ear for the way the millennial generation actually talks to each other.  He has some great zingers.  His one error is the running proctologist gags (the script has a few too many butt cracks if you know what I mean).  Besides which, no one in medicine uses the word proctologist and hasn’t for decades.  They’ve been colorectal surgeons since at least the 1980s.  The only thing that strikes me as false is a nearly complete absence of smart phones.  They aren’t cinematic but they are a defining feature of the generation.

Performances range from serviceable to very good.  Sara James as the acerbic Rachel effortlessly steals every scene she’s in and is the comic highlight of the film.   Nick Crawford, as the hapless surgeon, has his moments as well when not saddled with too many cringe worthy anal puns.  The three pivotal figures who form the central triangle are believable and earnest but don’t have the impact of the supporting cast.  The film also makes excellent use of location photography and anyone familiar with the city in which it was filmed will enjoy seeing both its landmarks and its out of the way nooks and crannies highlighted with affection.   Flannery Hooks’ musical score also helps the proceedings.

Everyone involved has the talent to move beyond the low budget indie film festival circuit to something with a bit more exposure.  If they contact Joseph my manager or stop by Chateau Maine when they next visit Hollywood, I’m sure I can put them to work on whatever exciting film project is underway at Star is Born pictures.

Scotch bottle smashing.  Multiple gratuitous butt jokes.  Elevator stall.  Broken heel.   Bail bond waif.  Beach romance.  Necklace tossing.  Face punches.

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction, visit her entire back catalog and follow her on Twitter at

IHOP photo by Jim G

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