Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Hard Sell: The Beautiful and the Nebbish on Long Island
average folk would qualify as poor relations in this tony corner of Long
Island, but Hardy Buchanan would probably live on the wrong side of the tracks
in any town. Life is hard when you have a mentally ill mother, a terminally ill
dog, and an aggressively unattractive personality. However, when the Hardy boy
meets an older bombshell in trouble, he leverages her beauty for quick cash in
a PG sort of way, until life really gets complicated in Sean Nalaboff’s Hard Sell (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in Los Angeles.
is really Buchanan who takes care of his mother Lorna rather than vice versa,
yet Ms. Buchanan often seems to have more affection for their shaggy dog
Walter. Unfortunately, Walter hasn’t simply lost a step to old age. He needs
surgery quickly, but Buchanan cannot afford it. Frankly, it is unclear how the
Buchanans keep food on the table, given her flakiness. Presumably, he is a
scholarship student at the elitist prep school he attends, which would
partially explain his social pariah status.
Buchanan meets Bo while volunteering at a local homeless shelter for the sake
of his college application resume. She is way, way out of his league, but she
isn’t just a fellow volunteer, she is also a short term resident. She claims to
be a stripper, as any twentysomething beauty would, so Buchanan starts charging
his well-heeled classmates for brief look-sees. Soon, he even starts brokering
chaste escort gigs. Of course, none of this is sustainable, especially as both
Lorna and Walter Buchanan’s conditions worsen. There is also a concerned uncle
out there looking for a young woman who matches Bo’s description.
far as we know, Bo was not sexually abused by her father or uncle, which earns Hard Sell points for originality. That
third act revelation is getting awfully tired, especially since it is largely
an act of projection on Hollywood’s part, if you believe Corey Feldman. On the
other hand, Hard Sell will seem ridiculously
tame for anyone raised on Risky Business and
National Lampoon movies. Seriously, don’t
these rich Hamptons kids have the internet?
more problematically, Hard Sell pretends
to treat mental health issues with all due gravity, unless you happen to be
really hot like Bo, in which case its fine to be a little cuckoo. As a result,
the film often feels like a disingenuous after school special.
Lorna Buchanan, Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth unleashes her inner trailer
trash Bette Davis, which is certainly an impressive spectacle. Katrina Bowden
is obviously comfortable playing the cool attractive chick (and there are
probably worse roles to be type-cast in). Old Walter probably deserves
consideration for those year-end animal performer awards, gimmicky as they may
be. That leaves consideration of Skyler Gisondo’s shticky, whiny performance as
Hardy Buchanan, which we would indeed like to leave by the side of the road.
Despite his status as a put-upon doormat, the
extent to which Nalaboff leaves issues in Hardy Buchanan’s miserable life
unresolved will annoy most viewers. Still, even with its faults, Hard Sell is vastly superior to the
cloying Waiting for Forever, which is
a weirdly fitting comparison film. Not recommended, Hard Sell opens this Friday (5/20) in Los Angeles, at the Arena Cinema.
Labels: Long Island films