Directed by: Billy Crystal
Premise: An aging comedy writer (Billy Crystal) who is suffering the early symptoms of dementia befriends an energetic woman (Tiffany Haddish). She helps him through his diagnosis.
What Works: Here Today was co-written, directed by, and stars Billy Crystal and it’s an impressive and occasionally surprising piece of work by a veteran performer. Crystal has always been a likable screen presence but a lot of his movies have generally been safe and lightweight. Here Today is also likable but it demonstrates a level of cinematic craftsmanship and a depth of character that’s revealing coming from Crystal. His character is a widower whose relationship with his adult children is strained. He’s also a senior writer on a Saturday Night Live-like sketch show where he’s increasingly marginalized and he’s suffering from dementia. That’s a lot of story threads but the movie does each of them well enough. Crystal stretches himself as an actor; while he’s playing a familiar kind of character, Crystal is also put on the spot in a few heavy dramatic scenes and he does them well. The film and Crystal’s performance integrate the humor into the drama; his character uses comedy to respond to tragedy and the laughs are underlined by melancholy. As a director, Crystal shows some impressive technical craft in Here Today. As a part of his condition, Crystal’s character suffers delusions and flashbacks and these are integrated into the movie in a way that is startling but also puts us into this man’s mental and emotional state.
What Doesn’t: The movie is too long. Here Today suffers from inefficient storytelling. Some moments are redundant and a few sequences could have been consolidated into a single scene. As a result, the pacing is sometimes sluggish and the picture struggles to maintain its narrative momentum. Tiffany Haddish’s character is not afforded the same consideration as her costar. Haddish and Crystal are an agreeable on-screen pair but Here Today also reiterates some archaic storytelling choices. Haddish’s character is a manic pixie dream girl; she’s initially established as a woman with her own life and career but that’s all cast aside to attend to this man’s problems. The point is well intended. This is what friends do; they show up when we need them. But the optics of a younger woman putting her life and career on hold to be this older man’s caretaker diminishes Haddish’s character and makes her more a function of the story than a person.
Bottom Line: Here Today is overall a likable movie that successfully mixes comedy and drama. The movie is overwrought and the storytelling is baggy but it reveals Billy Crystal as a competent filmmaker who ought to have directed more movies.
Episode: #851 (May 16, 2021)