A Better You (2014) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but would be R for sexual references and language
Running Time: 88 min.
Cast: Brian Huskey, Morgan Walsh, Horatio Sanz, Andrew Daly, Matt Walsh, Erinn Hayes, Joe Lo Truglio, Rob Huebel
Director: Matt Walsh
Screenplay: Brian Huskey, Matt Walsh
Review published January 31, 2015
Dr. Ron Knight (Huskey, Neighbors) is a Los Angeles hypnotherapist who sees clients in his home, trying, often to little avail, to put his patients under and hopes that suggestion can cure their vices when they awake. But mostly, he wants to hock his self-published book to them about getting the '411' about their '911', and other catchy marketing-related platitudes worthy of slapping on bumper stickers, municipal benches, and late-night TV ads. As much as he'd like to think he's helping people, his own life is in a shambles, as his wife Margo (Morgan Walsh, Ivansxtc) wants out, his kids find him dull, his neighbors can't stand the way he works or lives, and he doesn't really have any friends he can just talk to.
A Better You is the brainchild of director/co-writer Matt Walsh (High Road) and star/co-writer Brian Huskey, utilizing the fully improvised, sketch-comedy style Walsh regularly teaches at the UCB Theatre in LA and New York, which he helped co-found. Prior to his career in comedy, Walsh had also studied to become a psychologist, though his true occupation has come in finding the humor is many of the practices pushed forward today than in actual case work. Comedy can be seen as its own form of healing therapy, so perhaps he has found his calling after all.
Though a comedy at its core, the film offers a somewhat ironic look at alternative therapy, particularly in Southern California, and how many solutions are offered to people in need from people who haven't gotten life all figured out themselves. From hypnotherapy, aroma therapy, reiki, and many others, all promise a new way to bring back purpose and focus into ones life, but if one looks at the actual lives of those who profess to have the keys to fixing your woes, many of them could stand to find an alternate solution for themselves.
Outside of an original outline that Walsh and Huskey drew up prior to filming, the Indiegogo-funded film is shot without a script, featuring a whole array of improvisational comedians who manage to come up with some humorous moments and characters. Along those lines, it's a commendable effort, certainly worthy of admiration for the depth of comedic characterizations that are drawn out, especially by Huskey (bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anthony Perkins when donning the obvious wig), who absolutely nails the stuck-up educated type who thinks he knows more about how life should be lived than the people who manage to actually live their lives with more gusto. I especially have to give kudos for Andrew Daly (A Haunted House) for providing me with the moments I find most amusing, as the pompous and smarmy neighbor who can't stand the collection of cigarette butts that are accumulating in the gutter outside of Dr. Knight's abode.
For as conceptually astute as the reasons behind the film are, and for as talented a cast and creative team as A Better You brings together, unfortunately, I can't quite give the film a recommendation. It's amusing in spots, but not really funny enough as a whole to carry a full-length feature. It might have been hilarious as a 30-minute short, but at 90 minutes, redundant jokes, extraneous characters, and scenes that have that filler feel eventually produce an inordinate amount of lulls, to the point where momentum doesn't escalate enough to produce the fits and giggles one might expect. I won't go so far as to say A Better You needs a better script (or even just a script), but it definitely could have used a few more couch sessions of brainstorming before it was deemed ready to take on the world.
©2015 Vince Leo