×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘The Leisure Class’ (Project Greenlight)

With:
Ed Weeks, Tom Bell, Bridget Regan, Scottie Thompson, Melanie Zanetti, Christine Lakin, Rory Knox Johnston, Brenda Strong, Bruce Davison

For all the high-minded talk from its high-profile producers around “Project Greenlight,” the TV show has never been about the movies being made at its center, nor has it produced a successful one. That streak continues with “The Leisure Class,” although this latest film has been spared any commercial pressures by premiering on HBO, which needn’t worry about anyone specifically paying to see it, something that — in the rough-and-tumble world of theatrical distribution — one suspects almost nobody would feel inclined to do.

As the series chronicled, contest-winning director Jason Mann fought to make this script, and there’s obviously some talent on display here. That said, it’s put to use in the service of such a small, inconsequential story as to make Mann’s conspicuous hand-wringing over the details during the show — like shooting on film as opposed to digital — seem irrelevant in hindsight.

Having initially set out to make a comedy, the producers bowed to Mann’s darker vision, yielding something closer to a satire. But the targets aren’t particularly distinctive, and the notion of the entire narrative unfolding over a 24-hour period, as executed, makes for a rather blunt, heavy-handed approach.

The film opens with William (Ed Weeks) about to marry Fiona (“Jane the Virgin’s” Bridget Regan), the politically ambitious daughter of a filthy-rich U.S. senator, Edward Langston (Bruce Davison, the best thing the movie has going for it). At an engagement shindig the night before the wedding, Edward works the crowd, while telling William that he’s “like the son I never had.”

The inevitable grenade arrives in the form of William’s long-lost brother, Leonard (Tom Bell), the loosest of cannons, who risks exposing his sibling as a grifter who, before genuinely falling for Fiona, was preparing to loot the senator’s charitable foundation. Yet Leonard’s wild and irreverent behavior (William tries passing him off as an old college friend) not only endangers his brother’s plans, but quickly punctures the family’s veneer of perfection, although given the tumble of details that emerges, it never really adds up to much more than a flesh wound.

Weeks and Bell yield a few amusing moments with rat-a-tat banter and wordplay, as William seeks to politely oust his brother, who proceeds to gulp down a lot of expensive booze before all heck breaks loose, offering Davison an opportunity to lose his cool. But none of it really holds up to close scrutiny, such as the notion that the senator wouldn’t disclose results of a background check on his future son-in-law until the night before the wedding. Nor is there enough meat or focus here for the film to function as a critique of the one percent, the title and trappings notwithstanding.

In perhaps the savviest move associated with this revival of the concept, HBO scheduled the movie to play the night after “Project Greenlight’s” final episode, allowing the morbidly curious to see how the snippets they’ve seen have been cut together. But if the network’s executives have given this modestly budgeted exercise 10 minutes thought — other than wondering how they looked on camera — it’s about nine too many.

The underlying goal of “Project Greenlight” has always been to demonstrate that while Hollywood represents a fantasy factory, the nuts and bolts of making movies isn’t all fun and games. While that ode to the hard work of filmmaking is a reasonable (if self-serving) objective, as chores go, watching the finished product shouldn’t be.

TV Review: 'The Leisure Class' (Project Greenlight)

(Movie; HBO, Mon. Nov. 2, 10 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Adaptive Studios, Pearl Street Films and Miramax, in association with Duly Noted, and presented by HBO Films.

Crew: Executive producers, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, Jennifer Todd, TJ Barrack, Perrin Chiles, Marshall Lewy; producers, Effie T. Brown, Marc Joubert; director, Jason Mann; writers, Pete Jones, Mann; camera, Trevor Forrest; production designer, Cecil Gentry; editor, Craig Hayes; music, Brian Byrne; casting, Lauren Bass, Jordan Bass. 85 MIN.

Cast: Ed Weeks, Tom Bell, Bridget Regan, Scottie Thompson, Melanie Zanetti, Christine Lakin, Rory Knox Johnston, Brenda Strong, Bruce Davison

More TV

  • NBCU Reality Streaming Service Hayu Launches

    NBCU’s Reality Streaming Service Hayu Launches in Three New Territories (EXCLUSIVE)

    It’s easier to keep up with the Kardashians in the Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg after NBCUniversal launched its reality-TV streaming service, hayu, in those countries Tuesday. The service went live with about 6,000 episodes of unscripted fare from NBCUniversal’s lineup, including “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” “Made in Chelsea” and “The Real Housewives” and [...]

  • Arrow -- "Elseworlds, Part 2" --

    'Elseworlds, Part 2' Recap: Batwoman's 'Arrowverse' Story Begins

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Elseworlds, Part 2” the second part of the 2018 “Arrowverse” crossover, which aired Dec. 10. “Arrow’s” leg of the “Elseworlds” crossover had a little more to think about than “The Flash’s,” mainly because it served as the first introduction to Ruby Rose’s Batwoman. For [...]

  • Michael Uslan's U2K Becomes Asia-Hollywood Formats

    Michael Uslan's U2K Becomes Asia-Hollywood Formats Pipeline (EXCLUSIVE)

    Michael and David Uslan, the father and son producing team with credits that include “The Dark Knight” and “Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch” have struck a cluster of deals that makes them a two-way conduit for TV formats between Hollywood and Asia. U2K, a company that includes the Uslans and Jon Karas (“Believe in [...]

  • Court TV Brand to Resurface as

    Court TV Brand to Resurface as New Channel From Scripps Co.

    Court TV is back in session. The cable TV channel that once carried gavel-to-gavel live coverage of high-profile trials will be revived by a new owner, nearly a dozen years after it was shuttered by Turner Broadcasting. Katz Networks, a division of E.W. Scripps Co., plans to revive Court TV as a new channel designed [...]

  • Gina Rodriguez Carmen Sandiego

    TV News Roundup: Netflix's Carmen Sandiego Series With Gina Rodriguez Sets Premiere Date

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix announced a premiere date for its upcoming Carmen Sandiego series and Stars released the premiere date for its original comedy series “Now Apocalypse.” DATES Lifetime will debut a new Gretchen Carlson documentary Jan. 14 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, Variety has learned exclusively. The two-hour special titled “Gretchen Carlson: Breaking [...]

  • Craig Hunegs WB

    Craig Hunegs to Exit Warner Bros. TV Group and Digital Networks (EXCLUSIVE)

    After nearly 25 years in the Warner Bros. family, Craig Hunegs is exiting his post as head of business for Warner Bros. TV Group and president of the studio’s digital networks wing. Hunegs said he has been discussing his exit with Warner Bros. chairman-CEO Kevin Tsujihara for the past several months. At a time of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content