HBO’s “Girls” follows four female friends as they traverse New York City, trying to make sense of their lives and transitions into adulthood. At times it’s formulaic, but at other times it’s subtle and deft in its approach, often capturing the many nuances of adulthood. Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs’ new film “Growing Up And Other Lies” is pretty much the male equivalent of “Girls,” except it’s not nuanced, it’s formulaic, and unfortunately the most boring comedy of the year.
The film follows four friends: Rocks (Adam Brody), Billy (Danny Jacobs), Gunderson (Wyatt Cenac), and Jake (Josh Lawson), as they attempt to traverse the entire length of Manhattan, retracing an adventure they had years ago. Each man has issues they’re trying to deal with: Josh is planning to move to Ohio while still getting over his ex, Rocks is expecting a baby with a woman he’s not quite sure he loves, Billy is ditching his job at a law firm to hang with his friends, and Gunderson is a cynical jerk. Through their journey they run into old friends, lovers and memories, all while attempting to keep Josh in New York. The film breezes by easily, though that is hardly a good thing.
Writer and director duo Grodsky and Jacobs try their best to create an enjoyable buddy comedy in this latest effort, but it falls short of anything significant or worthwhile. The men’s banter is shallow and oftentimes self-indulgent, favoring nostalgic monotony over actual character growth. Scenes carry on for too long, groan-worthy side plots are introduced, and once the journey is finished, no man has really learned anything. If anything, the audience has grown to hate them more, as the writers have carved out four completely unlikeable personas, the top of the chain being Gunderson. He’s marvelously entertaining to watch, but his highly cynical nature grows tiresome halfway through the movie, and one begins to question, “Why would anyone be friends with this guy?”
The film loses most of its credibility both in its dead-end dialogue and the direction of its characters. These four feel like cutouts of children with the mouths of adults, constantly whining about their problems without really solving them, and none of the four actors share any chemistry. That’s no fault to the actors – each of whom give performances of reasonable emotional depth – but at times it feels as though they were given a script without much background and without much time to get acquainted. In one particular scene, Jake runs into his ex-girlfriend (House’s Amber Tamblyn) at a child’s birthday party, though it sounds like the two never had any relationship. Their dialogue is strangely relaxed, and lacks the awkward tension that would make such a scene poignant and believable. It’s a shame every effort falls flat, when Grodsky and Jacobs’ previous film “Humboldt County” was so promising.
“Growing Up And Other Lies” is a film that could have gotten so much right in terms of transitioning into adulthood, but in the end it feels like an unorganized, confused thought. It’s a tragic misfire for two talented filmmakers.