Film tests the viewer's tolerance for a protagonist whose flighty irresponsibility borders on unforgivable.
Even more than “The Pleasure of Being Robbed,” their previous work of indie pranksterism, Josh and Benny Safdie’s comedic drama “Go Get Some Rosemary” tests the viewer’s tolerance for a protagonist whose flighty irresponsibility borders on unforgivable — and arguably extends to the filmmakers. Darlings of the Directors’ Fortnight, the Safdies have at least improved the tech credits on their Gotham-set sophomore feature, though their shaky-cam affectations remain mildly sick-making, seemingly by design. Cassavetes-esque tale of a man-child’s attempt to juggle work and family while remaining immune to adulthood will likely delight the sibling auteurs’ marginal fanbase without much expanding it.
Played with long sideburns and shifty eyes by Ronnie Bronstein, maker of the similarly grungy but vastly superior “Frownland,” Lennie, a divorced projectionist and father of two, is introduced at a hot-dog shop stubbornly buying two six-inch wieners and a footlong bun, which he soon spills on the grass while hopping a New York park fence — inspiring a laughing fit from the character, if not from many viewers. Lennie likewise fails in his efforts to keep his two young boys, Sage and Frey (brothers Sage and Frey Ranaldo), from falling out of his feeble grasp during the latest annual two-week stretch away from Mom (Leah Singer).
Without dwelling on the sordid details, the combination of Dad’s demanding work schedule and brutally inept parenting skills leads to various scenes of child jeopardy that stand to strike viewers as darkly funny, beyond the pale or both.
In keeping with the character’s waywardness, digressive bits of business abound, as when Lennie shares a close encounter with a woman he had impulsively bought a drink and later dreams of a gigantic insect. Like “The Pleasure of Being Robbed,” the new film features an impromptu road trip, this time upstate, which presumably saves on production costs while contributing little of substance to the meager story.
While not entirely unlikable, “Rosemary” peaks too early with a scene of the kids — dragged along to the rep house where Lennie spins his reels — drawing a vaguely vulgar comicstrip and then surreptitiously Xeroxing hundreds of copies. That these sheets are soon whisked away by a strong New York street breeze seems representative of the Safdies’ desire to throw narrative caution to the wind as well. Alas, this film about the bittersweet virtues of wanton spontaneity never invites its audience along for the ride in any earnest manner.
The actors, including “Pleasure” star Eleonore Hendricks as Lennie’s g.f. Leni (ha ha), may well be talented, but it’s impossible to tell from the Safdies’ combination of fast cutting and a camera that practically swings between f-stops.
Cameo appearances by New York hipsters Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth and Abel Ferrara (as a heat-packing street hustler) help boost the coolness quotient. The film’s odd title draws from a late scene in which Lennie brusquely orders his kids to go get some groceries.