There’s surely more succinct ways in which to espouse the power of music or to explore the complications inherent in relationships between parents and their offspring than to produce a nearly 20-minute art film: Music can heal. Also, sometimes it’s hard to talk to your dad. Done. But where’s the fun in that?
Enter Michael Cera’s just-released short film, Brazzaville Teen-ager, in which he stars alongside Charles Grodin and pop star Kelis, who plays herself. Written by Cera and Bruce Jay Friedman and based on a 1960s short story by the latter, the film finds Cera desperately trying to heal his dying father (Grodin), but for some reason, he can only do so with the help of Kelis and his reasonably skeptical boss.
That Cera directed the film for JASH, the newly-launched premium YouTube channel that features original content from Sarah Silverman, Reggie Watts, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, you’d assume Brazzaville Teen-ager maintains an amazingly high number of laughs-per-minute. It doesn’t. The humor contained therein is Sahara-dry. What the film does best — with help from cinematographer Joe Anderson — is to establish Cera as a skilled director and conceptualist who is finally proving he need not play the flimsy, shoe-gazing, indie comedy geek he’s played in every movie and television series in which he’s appeared. Check out the film and tell us what you think.