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Lemon DVD Review

Lemon (2017) movie poster Lemon

Theatrical Release: August 18, 2017 / Running Time: 83 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Janicza Bravo / Writers: Janicza Bravo, Brett Gelman

Cast: Brett Gelman (Isaac), Judy Greer (Ramona), Michael Cera (Alex), Shiri Appleby (Ruthie), Fred Melamed (Howard), Rhea Perlman (Esther), David Paymer (Dr. Gold), Gillian Jacobs (Tracy), Jon Daly (Toby), Martin Starr (Adam), Megan Mullally (Simone), Jeff Garlin (Guy Roach), Elizabeth De Razzo (Rosa), Nia Long (Cleo)

Buy Lemon from Amazon.com: DVD Instant Video

Lemon marks a number of firsts for its creators, writer-director Janicza Bravo and writer-star Brett Gelman.
It's the first theatrical feature for her as writer-director and him as leading man. Neither makes a strong case for getting a second.

The film opens with a distressing television report from Africa, then the camera slowly pans to reveal our protagonist awakened on the couch, his pajama pants and underwear evidently soaked with urine, something he tries and fails to hide from Ramona (Judy Greer), his blind girlfriend of ten years, who awakens just down the couch from him.

Isaac is a pretentious acting coach, whose only acting credits these days are as the poster child for diseases. Nonetheless, he doesn't doubt his authority as he belittles an acting student (Gillian Jacobs) in his class and invites his favorite pupil Alex (Michael Cera) to do the same.

The indie comedy "Lemon" stars Brett Gelman as Isaac, a pretentious and awkward protagonist.

There's barely a plot to detail here. Ramona leaves Isaac. Isaac develops an infatuation for Alex, which involves spray painting a slur on his car and later throwing a small cake at him. Not long after attending his family's large Passover gathering, Isaac also improbably begins dating Cleo (Nia Long), a stylist with a son.

In one word, Lemon is uncomfortable. Isaac is a pariah with no redeeming features. It's unclear how Ramona tolerated him ever, let alone for ten years, even while being able to see his stone cold demeanor and complete lack of aesthetic charm. It's unclear how anyone can tolerate this antihero, whom spending over 80 minutes with is downright tortuous.

There's certainly room for awkwardness in comedy. Some of my favorite films and TV series would swiftly be declared "offbeat." But Lemon doesn't mine its discomfort for laughs. The closest you may get to cracking a smile may be in Cera's character's pretentious description of his acting process, citing colors and animals as inspiration for the different turns in his performance.

Michael Cera chips in some star power as Alex, the standout pupil in Isaac's (Brett Gelman) acting class.

Most of our time is spent with the joyless Isaac and few of his encounters, from photo shoots to a black family picnic, seem even interested in amusing you.

Lemon somehow picked up six nominations and one win at the festival circuit it made this year. Released by Magnolia Pictures, it struggled to find any kind of audience in a maximum of just 13 theaters, despite the surprising number of accomplished performers assembled here, which includes Jeff Garlin, Megan Mullally, Rhea Perlman, Fred Melamed, Shiri Appleby, and Martin Starr.

Not surprisingly, Magnolia hasn't bothered to give this a Blu-ray release, bringing it to DVD and digital platforms just three months after its insignificant theatrical release.

Lemon DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.37:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: November 21, 2017
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $26.97
Yellow Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

As a DVD-only release, Lemon obviously lacks the sharpness, detail, and clarity of its Blu-ray contemporaries. The limitations are pretty obvious when viewing on a large enough screen, which may reflect the presumably modest budget in addition to standard definition. English SDH subtitles are supplied and the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is adequate. According to the case, the aspect ratio is an ever so slightly irregular 2.37:1.

The family Passover sing-along is presented in alternate versions in the Lemon DVD's deleted scenes/outtakes section. Writer-director Janicza Bravo discusses her film in this interview.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Extras begin with a long reel of "deleted scenes/outtakes" (16:07),
which number 9 by chapter count. Most of these bits resemble scenes that are in the movie, including a number of alternate takes of the family Passover seder sing-along.

Next up, we get interviews with the two people most directly responsible for this mess: writer-director Janicza Bravo (13:59) and writer/star Brett Gelman (8:03). They cover the appropriate bases, with Bravo discussing writing for certain actors and casting the film while Gelman speaks about the title's significance, an alternate ending that was ditched, and a character who was changed.

Lemon's theatrical trailer (2:28) is...graciously...preserved.

"Also from Magnolia Home Entertainment" repeats the disc-opening trailers for Person to Person, Lucky, Blade of the Immortal, plus promos for Charity Network and AXS TV.

The animated menus adapt the yellow motif of the cover and disc art. Even the keepcase is yellow. With no digital copy inside, no inserts accompany the full-color platter.

A romantic relationship between Isaac (Brett Gelman) and makeup artist Cleo (Nia Long) gets off to an uncomfortable start.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Lemon is as uncomfortable and unappealing as any film released in 2017. Magnolia's DVD offers an adequate presentation, but the film itself is absolutely one to skip.

Buy Lemon from Amazon.com: DVD / Instant Video

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Reviewed January 29, 2018.



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