Tuesday 23 December 2014


(David Wain, 2014)

Great gags and inspired scenes are studded through They Came Together. The best of those, oddly, are the ones that aren't parodying romcom cliches, the ones that have their own internal humour.
Like the scene where the boss of Paul Rudd's Joel finds himself unable to remove his superhero costume at a fancy dress party - shot by Wain in a series of frantic takes as he contorts his body, his face more and more crimson -  and shits his pants, then denies any culpability, having left his soiled costume on the bathroom floor. Or the many random moments of exaggerated behaviour, like Molly's (Amy Poehler) Mom propositioning Joel as a "test" then casually revealing herself as a White Supremacist.
But the film is chiefly a parody of romcoms, and as such it gets so much right, ticking off cliches and conventions as it goes along. Told in flashback by Joel and Molly from a restaurant dinner with another couple, it winks at the audience consistently and from the first moment with it's acknowledgement that New York City is like the "third character" in their story. The problem is that while many of these cliches are presented in hilarious contexts, not all of them are, and it's not enough just to notice conventions; you need to use them somehow, and Wain doesn't do that quite enough.
His cast are a great help, delivering a series of arch "bad" performances full of mugging and telegraphed emotions. Rudd and Poehler have genuine chemistry, which keeps this watchable even as it gets bogged down in a series of short sketches with an at-times-tiresome narrative link. Some gags become funny through repetition (characters constantly say "Shit!" to themselves after somebody else has left, while in other situations, stop people from leaving just so they can say "Thanks.") while some fall flat instantly, but overall this is a pleasantly clever comedy. It's just not quite funny enough.

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