Director David Gordon Green is a bit of a paradox. Snow Angels, one of the most underrated films I’ve seen in recent years, was a great little indie film that deserved more attention. His next film, Pineapple Express, was arguably a sleeper hit that was middling at times, but had some amount of unrealized potential. Next came Your Highness, which I haven’t personally seen, but was critically panned.
His latest film, The Sitter, comes at the tail end of the year, perhaps in hopes to wash away the cottonmouth that Your Highness left in our mouths. Whether or not he was able to accomplish this, however, is a question I’m ready and wiling to face right now.
Director: David Gordon Green
Release Date: December 9, 2011
The Sitter is about an unmotivated slacker, Noah (Jonah Hill), who decides to babysit a family friend’s three kids to ensure his divorced Mother has a fun night at a fancy museum event. The three kids are of stereotypical comedy fare: Slater (Max Records) is a preppy hypochondriac; Blithe (Landry Bender) is a young girl aspiring to become a socialite when she grows older; and Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez), an adopted child from El Salvador with a penchant for bathroom shenanigans and bombs. The source of conflict outside of the kids is Noah’s “girlfriend,” Marisa (Ari Graynor), who offers sex in exchange for some cocaine. With his priorities intact, Noah ventures out to Brooklyn to achieve this. Along the way, as is typical with such films, various shenanigans arise that threaten Noah’s mission.
The problem with this “dark comedy” is the setup has been done over and over, and done BETTER. The kids play nothing more than minor distractions to the story. Well, they each have little subplots that are explored as the film goes on, but it’s formulaic and predictable; for example, you know Noah and Blithe are gonna have an insightful conversation where he convinces her that being a socialite isn’t all that great. There’s also the issue with Noah’s character. The film begins with him performing cunnilingus on Ari, which serves as the most awkward cunnilingus scene I’ve seen in a film since Ben Stiller’s in Greenberg. We’re led to believe that this slightly-above average girl is somewhat attracted to Noah, but honestly… really? It can’t be his personality, either, because he’s an incredibly selfish and total dick. Of course, there’s a sense of redemption by the end of the film, but what’s there to like about him, other than his purportedly incredible tongue technique? I guess, in a way, that says more about Ari’s shallow character than Noah’s, but it’s still out there. What’s more, there’s a character later on who practically falls in love with Noah at first on-screen sight. REALLY?!
If there’s ONE saving grace for this mess of a “comedy,” it’s Sam Rockwell. Big surprise there, right? Rockwell’s Karl is the aforementioned coke dealer, and his character has shades of both Rob Lowe’s Chris Traeger from Parks and Recreation and… a stereotypical drug dealer intent on getting his money. In fact, Rockwell’s Karl might be the only character I actually liked and was generally funny.
Thus is the major problem with the film. For a comedy, The Sitter completely lacks any funny moments (again, outside of the occasional Karl scenes). I love Hill and the characters he tends to play, but Noah was just so vanilla. It’s a typical Hill performance without the humor. Given Hill’s career and tendency to make me laugh, I think this can be chalked up to a bad script. If you’ve read other reviews for The Sitter, you may have noticed comments relating to its runtime, which is “officially” 81 minutes. For a film that’s so short, it feels way too painfully long. The jokes are non-existent, the attempts at jokes (Rodrigo’s extremely small bladder, Blithe’s caked makeup, etc.) are just cringe-worthy.
I’ve tried to follow a theme with the images chosen for this review. Like the header, you’re gonna stare at the screen the whole time, wondering why you’re wasting your time watching this film; like the second image, you’re gonna point and look elsewhere for a better film experience; like the final image, you might be dragged along to see this by somebody with terrible taste, but that shouldn’t stop you from fighting and struggling against it.
If we’re keeping score, The Sitter officially makes David Gordon Green 0 for 2 this year.