×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Excuse Me for Living

Film throws together a lot of superficially flashy elements that never gel in any organic way.

With:
With: Tom Pelphrey, Christopher Lloyd, Wayne Knight, Maureen Mueller, Jerry Stiller, Robert Vaughn, Melissa Archer, Ewa Da Cruz, James McCaffrey, Tonja Walker, David A. Gregory, Shenaz Treasury, Tyler Hollinger, Dick Cavett, Kevin Brown.

A catchy but irrelevant title is the first of many problems with “Excuse Me for Living,” which throws together a lot of superficially flashy elements that never gel in any organic way. The second feature from writer-director Ric Klass (his first in 22 years) traces a rudderless, suicidal youth’s unconvincing road to recovery via an awkward mix of farce, drama, romance and whatnot. Best looked at as an attempted screwball comedy, the pic faces long odds as it launches theatrically Oct. 12. The cast’s veteran names and young soap stars will aid later rental prospects.

Dan (Tom Pelphrey) is introduced preparing to throw himself off the Brooklyn Bridge, an act thwarted by a no-nonsense cop. The poor little rich kid, a substance-abusing med school dropout, awakens in an upstate New York treatment center/mental hospital under the care of Dr. Bernstein (Robert Vaughn). Having been declared a danger to himself, Dan is further dismayed to realize his warring parents (Wayne Knight, Maureen Mueller) have signed over their custody rights to the tough-loving doc.

Popular on Variety

Sole therapy on the agenda, however, seems to be Bernstein’s insistence that Dan sit in on a rap-group circle of accomplished local Jewish men over 60 who meet at a local synagogue, presumably so he can soak up the accumulated wisdom they impart when they’re not kvetching about broken marriages, estranged kids and so forth. These sequences (featuring Jerry Stiller as the group’s star member) in a way seem to be the pic’s raison d’etre, but they’re also the film’s feeblest, and the ones least necessary to an already wayward plot.

Meanwhile, Dan can’t help sneaking away to decadent parties thrown by his old friend Bruce (David A. Gregory), at first to indulge his now-forbidden habits, then to pursue Laura (Melissa Archer), who inconveniently turns out to be Dr. Bernstein’s daughter. She’s also best friend to bombshell Charlotte (Ewa Da Cruz), a cutthroat divorce lawyer with whom he has a brief fling before finding True Love.

At heart the kind of traditional romantic comedy that can end with a double wedding, “Excuse Me for Living” nonetheless gets lost in myriad digressions: indulgently overwrought dialogue, gratuitous cameos (notably Dick Cavett as an irreverent reverend), broad but unfunny yuks, glimpses of moneyed youth that feel like an old man’s creaky, circa-1965 fantasies. (It’s typical of the pic’s weirdly out-of-synch morality that Bruce has thrown cocaine-blanketed parties for years, yet confesses he and his mates were always too scared to try the stuff themselves.)

Dan begins to straighten up and fly right the second he meets some inspiring oldsters and a Ms. Right. It’s a poorly articulated narrative spine (one the film can’t even keep its wandering attention on after a certain point), although thesp Pelphrey — like all the younger leads here, a soap-opera veteran — is the pic’s major plus. Playing an erstwhile Yale valedictorian run amuck, he’s quick-witted, unpredictable, jaded yet endearing in a Robert Downey Jr. kind of way, elevating the material even as it lets him down.

Otherwise, the acting is highly variable, with Christopher Lloyd gnawing scenery to a pulp as Dr. Bernstein’s craziest patient; the actresses seem to have been cast (and dressed) primarily for their bra sizes. Packaging is adequate, though composer Robert Miller’s eagerness to underline every antic or maudlin moment doesn’t help a movie that has trouble enough finding a unified tone.

Excuse Me for Living

Production: A Dada Films/Required Viewing release of an EMFL presentation. Produced by Ric Klass. Co-producers, Donna McKenna, Mark Tocher. Directed, written by Ric Klass.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Chase Bowman; editor, Scott Conrad; music, Robert Miller; production designer, Kristen Adams; art director, Eric Morrell; costume designer, David Tabbert; sound, Dan Bricker; sound designer/re-recording mixer, Bob Pomann; assistant director, Michael S. Chandler; casting, Donna McKenna. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Oct. 8, 2012. Running time: 107 MIN.

With: With: Tom Pelphrey, Christopher Lloyd, Wayne Knight, Maureen Mueller, Jerry Stiller, Robert Vaughn, Melissa Archer, Ewa Da Cruz, James McCaffrey, Tonja Walker, David A. Gregory, Shenaz Treasury, Tyler Hollinger, Dick Cavett, Kevin Brown.

More Film

  • Lee Byung-hun stars in "The Man

    Lee Byung-hun’s ‘Man Standing Next’ Secures 2020 Asia Theatrical Releases (EXCLUSIVE)

    Showbox’s political drama “The Man Standing Next” has secured releases in multiple territories in Asia. The film was picked up by Falcon for Indonesia, The Klockworx for Japan, Viva Communications for the Philippines, Shaw Renters for Singapore and by Moviecloud for Taiwan. Release dates in each territory have yet to be confirmed. Set 40 days [...]

  • Lulu Wang and Zhao Shuzhen'The Farewell'

    Zhao Shuzhen on Stealing Scenes in Her First American Movie, 'The Farewell'

    A year ago, 76-year-old actor Zhao Shuzhen shot her first American movie, “The Farewell,” based on writer-director Lulu Wang’s very personal family story. In November, Shuzhen found herself making her first visit to the States, where she earned standing ovations from audiences and posed for pictures with stars like Robert Pattinson at parties. Then she [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez and Director Lorene Scafaria

    'Hustlers' DP Todd Banhazl Discusses How Not to Shoot With the Male Gaze

    Cinematographer Todd Banhazl had to rethink conventional wisdom in shooting Jennifer Lopez starrer “Hustlers.” What sort of approach did you and director Lorene Scafaria discuss in terms of how you were going to shoot the women and create these strong images of strippers? From the beginning, we talked about this idea of control and the [...]

  • A Hidden Life Movie

    Film News Roundup: Terrence Malick's 'A Hidden Life' Screened at Vatican Film Library

    In today’s film news roundup, “A Hidden Life” is shown at the Vatican, “Limerence” finds a home, Dave Baustista’s “My Spy” moves, and the DGA honors two veteran members. VATICAN SCREENING Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life” received a rare private screening at the Vatican Film Library this week. Popular on Variety The movie centers on [...]

  • Wet Season

    'Wet Season' Star Yeo Yann Yann on the Need for Quality Chinese-Language Films

    Malaysia’s Yeo Yann Yann wiped away tears that weren’t purely of joyous triumph just minutes after receiving the 2019 Golden Horse Award for best actress in Singaporean director Anthony Chen’s “Wet Season.” The film plays in the New Chinese Cinema section of this week’s International Film Festival & Awards (IFFAM). Emotion welled up as she [...]

  • Wolf Totem

    Juben Productions Stretches From Peter Chan to Chinese Zombies

    Beijing Juben Productions has taken over rights to the popular “Wolf Totem” novel from China Film Group and is working on a sequel to be delivered in 2021 or Chinese New Year 2022. It also has a zombie film up its sleeve, as well as a British co-production about Shakespeare and a Chinese drama with [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content