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Catching Up On 2018: Josh Reviews Lez Bomb

April 3rd, 2019
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Jenna Laurenzo wrote, directed, and stars in the film Lez Bomb.  She plays a young woman, Lauren, who is planning on coming out to her parents when she is home with them for Thanksgiving.  But as the various family members arrive for the Thanksgiving meal, one event after another keeps finding a way to interfere with the conversation Lauren wants to have with her parents.

I heard about this film when Jenna Laurenzo appeared on Kevin Pollak’s terrific podcast Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show.  Ms. Laurenzo was funny and heartfelt on the podcast, and so I was intrigued to track down this film that she had labored so hard to create.

Mr. Laurenzo was able to assemble a formidable cast for her film.  Kevin Pollak plays her father; Steve Guttenberg (yes, that Steve Guttenberg!) plays her uncle Mike; and Bruce Dern and Cloris Leachman play her grandparents.  Wow!  Bravo to Ms. Laurenzo for attracting such talent to her film!  She provides a nice showcase for these actors.  Kevin Pollak is very naturalistic and comfortable in the role of her dad; he’s always fun to watch, and he is very funny in a key scene in the car with the boy, Austin, who he thinks is Lauren’s boyfriend.  And, please, can someone make a whole movie with Bruce Dern and Cloris Leachman together?  They both killed in every second they were on screen, and they were great together.

I love seeing films that are the singular vision of a dedicated creator, and it’s impressive to me that Ms. Laurenzo wrote, directed, and starred in this film.  That’s a fantastic achievement.  I hope this film serves as a calling card to allow her to continue to work and create in Hollywood.

The rest of the cast, consisting mostly of actors who I didn’t recognize, are all strong.  I was particularly taken with Deirdre O’Connell’s work as Lauren’s mom.  I also enjoyed Brandon Micheal Hall as Lauren’s friend and roommate Austin, Caitlin Mehner as Lauren’s girlfriend Hailey, and Elaine Hendrix and Rob Moran as Lauren’s aunt and uncle Maggie and Ken.

In her podcast conversation with Kevin Pollak, Ms. Laurenzo spoke at length about the core of the film’s story, and how hard it can be to come out, even in today’s day and age.  There is a heartfelt personal story at the core of Lez Bomb that I found very appealing.  Where the film falls down, though, is in its extreme over-reliance on lame sitcom-ish contrivances.  As the film played out, I often found myself rolling my eyes as crazy situation piled upon crazy situation to delay Lauren’s coming-out announcement until the end of the film.  By the time we arrived at the scene in a motel parking lot in which a wheel-chair-riding grandma hurled a turkey at a sword-wielding drug dealer, I had pretty much checked out of the story.  This is a film that feels to me like it wants to be a farce, one whose comedic force would build and build through careful set-ups into a third-act explosion of hilarious craziness.  But I’m afraid the film doesn’t succeed at that, because the story-lines and situations are too broad and forced.  (For a film that does succeed at that sort of farcical storytelling, check out Frank Oz’s Death at a Funeral — the British original, not the American remake.)

So I found myself wanting the film to be funnier and more successfully farcical — OR more serious.  I can believe that Lauren is scared to come out to her parents, and that she keeps finding excuses to delay the conversation.  Had the film leaned more strongly into that idea, and focused more on real emotion rather than silly sitcom-y twists (like having Lauren and her girlfriend Hailey get interrupted every single time they get close — I mean EVERY SINGLE TIME) I think it would have been stronger.

I definitely encourage you to listen to Ms. Laurenzo’s appearance on Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show.  I wish I had liked Lez Bomb more, but I’m glad to have seen it, and I wish Ms. Laurenzo the best of luck on what I hope and expect will be a great career.

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