Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Directed by Noah Baumbach and written by Baumbach, Carlos Jacott, and Christopher Reed, Highball is the story about a newlywed couple who decide to throw parties in order to improve their social lives in the course of an entire year. The film is a look into the world of marriage and friendships as they‘re tested in a trio of parties where things happen in weird ways. Starring Justine Bateman, Peter Bogdanovich, Dean Cameron, Chris Eigeman, Eric Stoltz, Annabella Sciorra, and Christopher Reed. Highball is a messy and incomprehensible film from Noah Baumbach.
The film revolves around the lives of a newlywed couple in Travis (Christopher Reed) and Diane (Lauren Katz) as they decide to throw parties in the course of a year in order to improve their social life with their friends. Instead, things go wrong in a trio of parties where there’s some spats, misunderstandings, discussions that go horrible wrong, and all sorts of confusion while one of the guests in Darien (Eric Stoltz) is always bringing a date who is a famous actress. The screenplay that Noah Baumbach, Christopher Reed, and Carlos Jacott explore the idea of these parties where everyone is eager to have a good time but something always go wrong. Things get messier and weirder where couples break up, a guest always instigate things, and there’s always something to make things even worse.
Baumbach’s direction is very intimate as he sets the film entirely in an apartment in Brooklyn where people are always gathering around to socialize and do things. Shot in six days with leftover film stock, the direction is quite loose while Baumbach would insert scenes of the New York City streets in between each segment of the film that is wonderfully edited with dissolves and such. The rest of the film itself unfortunately meanders where there’s gags involving a record company employee named Miles (John Lehr) and his boss (Chris Eigeman) while a guest named Felix (Carlos Jacott) spars with another guest (Noah Baumbach). There are moments that are funny including a guest (Peter Bogdanovich) making various impressions but it starts to lose its luster by the third act and things get more ridiculous as things wore on. Overall, Baumbach creates a very troubled and often dull micro budget film that really isn’t sure what it wants to be.
Cinematographer Steven Bernstein does nice work with the cinematography where it does have some grainy camera work for many of the film‘s interior settings to capture the mood of the parties. Production designer Shanya Tsao does terrific work with the design of the parties to play up the holiday or theme of the parties. Costume designer Katherine Jane Bryant does wonderful work with the costumes including the designs of the Halloween costumes the guests wear at the party. Sound editor Jason Kaplan does excellent work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of the parties as well as some of the backdrops of conversations heard in the background. Music supervisor Dean Wareham creates a fine soundtrack that features some of his own music plus some dreamy folk songs of his own including a few stuff played in the parties.
The film’s cast is a highlight of the film as it features appearances from Ally Sheedy and Rae Dawn Chong as themselves who are dates of Darien, Louise Stratten as a woman dressed up as a subway train, Catherine Kellner as a party guest dressed up as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Dean Cameron as a magician in the first party, Dean Wareham as a guest in the New Year’s Eve party, and Peter Bogdanovich as a guest who dresses up as a director in the Halloween party while doing many impressions of famous actors from the past.
Other small roles include Justine Bateman as the guest Sandy who is a friend of Diane, Annabella Sciorra as another friend of Diane in Molly, John Lehr as the somewhat dim-witted Miles, Noah Baumbach as the low-key yet smart-ass Philip, Chris Eigeman as Miles’ annoyed boss Fletcher, and Carlos Jacott as the very brash and pushy Felix. Lauren Katz is very good as Diane as a woman trying to get the party right while being frustrated by Felix while Christopher Reed is excellent as Travis who is a friend of Felix but couldn’t get anything through to Diane because he never tells her anything.
Highball is a drab yet disappointing film from Noah Baumbach. While it features themes about adulthood that he’s known for, it’s a film that gets bogged down by too many things happening where not much makes sense. Though it does have moments that are funny and is a bit impressive in terms of the small budget it has. It’s a film that really doesn’t offer much as it gets too repetitious at times while some of the characters don’t become interesting anymore. In the end, Highball is a disappointing yet dull film from Noah Baumbach.
Noah Baumbach Films: Kicking and Screaming - Mr. Jealousy - The Squid & the Whale - Margot at the Wedding - Greenberg - Frances Ha - While We’re Young - Mistress America - De Palma - The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) - Marriage Story - (White Noise (2022 film)) - The Auteurs #41: Noah Baumbach
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