18 February 2012

Movie Review: The Sitter


B-

The Sitter
2011, 81mins, 15
Director: David Gordon Green
Writer (s): Brian Gatewood, Alessandro Tanaka
Cast includes: Jonah Hill, Ari Graynor, Max Records, Sam Rockwell, J.B Smoove
UK Release Date: 20th January 2012

“The Sitter” is the second film within 12 months from former indie darling David Gordon Green, a director whose output has been questionable since his 2008 blockbusting success “Pineapple Express”. Last April Green forced “Your Highness” down our throats, a largely laugh free medieval stoner comedy which died a deserved death at the box-office. “The Sitter” is definitely an improvement over that drab affair, Green delivering an unremarkable but oddly affable picture, bolstered notably by the skills of star Jonah Hill. It’s unlikely to revive the babysitting genre of the 80s, but “The Sitter” delivers a reasonably good time, even if it never attempts to be much more than a run of the mill studio endeavour.

Noah (Jonah Hill) is a college dropout with no real job prospects, spending his days loafing around and performing oral sex on his selfish not quite girlfriend Marisa (Ari Graynor of “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” fame). In order to allow his understanding mother (Jessica Hecht) a night of leisure, Noah agrees to spend an evening babysitting a neighbour’s children, much to his own general displeasure. They are sensitive and solemn Spencer (Max Records, easily the young standout), celebrity and image obsessed Blithe (Landry Bender) and adopted explosives fanatic Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez). The night starts poorly with the kids acting out in various ways, but soon escalates into pure chaos when Noah ticks off a local drug dealer (Sam Rockwell) after attempting to score cocaine for Marisa. Burglaries, punch-ups and sharting ensue, all with the added input of children.

“The Sitter” is often lowbrow and obvious, but unlike “Your Highness” the film infuses its shenanigans with palpable doses of charm and energy. Hill is the picture’s most effective selling point, the recently Oscar nominated comic blending underdog charisma with his undoubted knack for improvisational fun proficiently. The performer is still very much in his comfort zone with “The Sitter”, but at least here he justifies his reputation as the funniest slob in Hollywood. The kids are also fine, ranging from adequate (Bender gets the job done despite occasionally irritating) to really rather excellent (Records delivers a nuanced little performance.) Together with Hill they make for an enjoyable gang on which to hang a goofy comedy, sparking off each other amusingly and with a pleasingly naturalistic flair.

The screenplay is unambitious from a storytelling standpoint, favouring a fairly recycled albeit somewhat edgier take on the babysitting subgenre. The jokes are also erratic, Hill manages to sell a good number on the back of his own ability, but overall “The Sitter” opts to take the easy path a little too frequently. There are odd subversive moments in which to revel (a sequence set in Rockwell’s drug den is truly surreal) but for the most part “The Sitter” is happy to play it safe in an R-rated sort of way. There are enough chuckles to tide audiences over, but it’s hard to see the film’s humour lingering long in the memory, it’s acceptable rather than exceptional.

Green directs the picture mostly on autopilot, the film aesthetically resembling an upmarket sitcom. One of the few saving graces “Your Highness” boasted was its glowing production design, something unfortunately missing from “The Sitter”. However the movie propels forward constantly, Green balancing the various arcs and overall pace of the limited plotline appropriately. “The Sitter” climaxes at 81 minutes, brevity one of its most endearing attributes.

As a DVD rental “The Sitter” has potential, it’s fluffy, forgettable and entirely disposable, but also moderately likeable. In the careers of Jonah Hill and David Gordon Green it will be but a footnote, but as CV fillers go it’s better than average.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2012

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