A 17-years-later sequel to “My Life’s in Turnaround,” “They’re Out of the Business” similarly conflates fact and fiction, as the one-hit wonders played by writer-directors Eric Schaeffer and Donal Lardner Ward find themselves caught in a downward spiral, never having equaled the success of their earlier breakthrough. The two still rely on their run-on, Woody Allen-ish interlocking rhythms to smartly propel the desultory plot forward, but after countless mumblecore and slacker indies, the sense of newness is gone. Mildly amusing pic will draw the nostalgic but play more comfortably to the couch-bound.
Whereas “Turnaround” concerned clueless never-wuzzes, “Business” cleverly features frustrated has-beens. Pic opens in Hollywood, where, after effusive protestations of respect and affection, Splick (Schaeffer) is cut off at the knees when his series “I Love Cake” is peremptorily canceled. With further employment dubious at best, Splick returns to his parents’ Manhattan apartment, where he contemplates nonexistent options in New York’s melted-down economy.
Meanwhile, Jason (Ward) is kicked out of the upscale townhouse of his rich g.f. (Kate Nowlin), who feels supplanted in his affections by his mushrooming 800-page manuscript. Jason settles for half a room in the ancestral family digs, his place now taken over by his sister’s Lithuanian green-card husband (Yury Tsykun), while sis snuggles comfortably with her lesbian lover (Alison Carter Thomas).
Told by all and sundry how much they loved “Turnaround” (as opposed to everything he’s done since), Splick decides to hunt down Jason, despite their decade-long estrangement, and propose a sequel. But Jason long ago abandoned all dreams of cinematic glory and settled for a job loading boxes, a certain middle-age fatalism having combined with his innate skepticism.
With their futures on hold, the two soon fall into old girl-hunting patterns, resulting in awkward encounters with a WWE ring girl (Steffi Garrard) and a porn-movie director (Andree Vermeulen). While Jason cautiously circles his ex-flame (Stefanie Frame), now a doctor with hubby and kids, Splick woos a lively yoga instructor (Diane Davis) with unexpected results.
More than “Turnaround,” which boasted hilarious cameos by the likes of John Sayles and Martha Plimpton, the core of “Business” lies more solidly in the buddies’ long, rambling disquisitions. As they walk down Chinatown streets at night or stroll through Riverside Park, the eye-level camera framing them in side-by-side exchanges or alternating two-shots, Splick and Jason’s conversational flights of fancy dominate the surroundings. Splick is wont to express whatever thought passes through his brain, no matter how partial or politically incorrect. The more repressed Jason can only deny his own complicity, mustering no arguments in rebuttal.
Pic’s shoestring production values match the fictional prospects of its characters.