Movie Review: THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST (2011)
Posted by Jonathan Sullivan on January 11, 2012
Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Bonnie Somerville, Amy Sedaris, Jenna Stern
Written by: Josh Shelov & Michael Jaeger
Directed by: Josh Shelov
Distributed by: New Video Group
The Best and the Brightest is a farcical take on the trials and tribulations of getting a child into a private kindergarten in the hustle and bustle world of New York City (the greatest city in the world, for those who’ve never been to any other city). In other words, privileged people with asinine problems played for laughs. Unfortunately, said laughs are few and far between and for those who don’t belong to/empathize with this world, it feels like a pointless endeavor.
Neil Patrick Harris and Bonnie Somerville star as Jeff and Sam, a couple from Delaware who move to New York City for Jeff’s new software job. They are faced with the cold hard reality of their new home when finding a good private kindergarten for their 5 year old daughter Beatrice (Amelia Talbot) is a lot harder than it seems with most spots taken even before the child is born. Desperate, the couple turn to “wacky” consultant Sue Lemon (Amy Sedaris) to find them an angle. The angle ends up repackaging Jeff as a poet, who uses the “sexting” back and forth of friend Clark (Peter Serafinowicz, sporting a horrid American accent) and his bevy of hookups as poems from his upcoming book. Being a farce, the lie soon spins out of control and leads to all sorts of crazy shenanigans.
The Best and the Brightest features a cast of unlikable people doing unlikable things. Harris has a few good lines at the beginning but as the movie wears on he becomes ineffectual and fades into the background (despite being front and center for a good chunk of the story). The movie is truly focused on Somerville, and she does an admirable job but her character doesn’t have anything to latch onto other than the simple “I love my kid enough to do stupid shit for them”. Sedaris is absolutely unbearable as Sue, and considering she’s supposed to be the funny one that’s not a great sign. The only three who survive this and actually get laughs are Serafinowicz (despite the terrible accent), Jenna Stern (as villainous Katharine Heilmann) and Christopher McDonald who plays a character known only as “The Player”. In their case, it’s their natural comedic talent helping them rise above the asinine jokes and situations they are placed in.
When it comes to actually being a comedy, The Best and the Brightest also ends up failing. The situation themselves aren’t funny and neither are the jokes themselves. Sue and The Player both give Jeff a dumb nickname and say it every other sentence like that’s supposed to be humorous in and of itself; instead it’s grating. The crutch of the comedy in the movie, Jeff’s “poetry” which is really insanely sexual IM conversations Clark has with a bevy of women, is chuckle worthy only on a surface level and mostly because hearing people say ridiculous sex stuff is inherently funny. It’s also played up for laughs situationally with Heilmann and the rest of the snooty people Jeff and Sam need to impress thinking it’s provocative poetry instead of dirty sex talk. Farce or not, that’s a ridiculous conceit and hard to really invest in and really loses its luster quickly. The R rating is definitely warranted for The Best and the Brightest but it’s used to force laughs, rather than have them come organically.
The Best and the Brightest is not a great comedy by any stretch, nor is it particularly interesting or engaging. The characters are unlikable, the situations are dull, and the “comedy” misses more than it hits. McDonald, Serafinowicz, and Stern manage to rise above it and wring some actual laughs, but it gets sucked down in the movie’s reliance on “raunchy is automatically funny, right?”. I’m sure the people of NYC who have gone through this think it’s a riot. Me? I think it’s a waste of time.