A family of beekeepers would probably tend bees together, so why shouldn’t a Hollywood clan synchronize their day jobs too, if they can?
A dizzy, fizzy comedy with occasional flashes of real wit, The Year of Spectacular Men feels like a lark for its director, ’80s icon Lea Thompson; her two daughters, Zoey and Madelyn Deutch (both star, the latter also wrote the script); and her husband Howard Deutch, who is listed as a producer (he and Thompson met and fell in love more than 30 years ago, when he directed her in Some Kind of Wonderful).
Though its opening — a bustling shot of Central Park, a jaunty jazz soundtrack, a prototypical New York neurotic lamenting his love life on a therapist’s couch — seems to promise a sort of candy-colored ode to the wry urbanity of Woody Allen, the movie’s inspiration is both fresher and sillier than those first few minutes imply.
Madelyn is Izzy, a girl on the verge of graduating college with no direction and no plan, other than maybe moving home to Los Angeles to live with her actress sister Sabrina (Zoey) — the kind of ingenue successful enough to play Zac Efron’s love interest in a movie and have a friendly trio of paparazzi marking time daily on her front lawn. First though, Izzy needs to clarify things with her live-in boyfriend, Aaron (a gleefully obnoxious Jesse Bradford) and wrap up her theater-class credits with an oddly self-possessed classmate (Cameron Monaghan).
She also needs to make peace with the truth about her father’s death, and with the post-widowhood choices of her new-age yogi mother (Thompson), who now lives in a sort of overly quinoa’ed conjugal bliss with her much-younger lover (Melissa Bolono) in Lake Tahoe.
As for the men of the title, spectacular is not exactly the word. Mostly, they’re mediocre to terrible: a smorgasbord of flakes, neurotics, and premature ejaculators, with a little hapless charm mixed in. (The best one, tellingly, is Sabrina’s sweetly devoted actor boyfriend Sebastian, played by Zoey’s own former longtime love Avan Jogia, and even he blunders into accidental jerk-dom).
Madelyn Deutch is a sharp screen presence and a clever writer — heavy on the kind of snappy, self-aware dialogue that no one really generates spontaneously in real life, but that used to come off very insouciantly on shows like Gossip Girl and The O.C. And her sister (Before I Fall, Everybody Wants Some!!) has a neatly goofy gift for screwball that defies her smooth, doll-like face.
The story flails when it reaches for deeper emotional resonance, and certain scenes, particularly the ones aimed at the softest targets, tip too far into farce. But as a shiny-bright artifact of how-I-spent-my-summer family bonding, Year is tart, breezy fun. B