A Futile and Stupid Gesture Review
|Writer(s)||John Aboud, Michael Colton and Josh Karp|
|Release Date||January 26, 2018|
In case your knowledge bank does not hold this information, Douglas Kenney was an American writer and actor. He co-founded the magazine National Lampoon in the 70s. He was also one of the writers for Caddyshack, a film that has grown a large cult following and endorsements by empire media outlets like Time and ESPN. A Futile and Stupid Gesture reflects not only the man himself but the impact he had on comedy forever. On the surface, you will probably believe that this Netflix Original will be another cheap thumbnail. The reality is, the streaming giant Netflix has managed to distribute a piece of history masterfully, grabbing it from the Sundance Film Festival.
What does the movie tell us about Douglas Kenney?
Provided with a great performance by Will Forte, A Futile and Stupid Gesture tells the story of the many layers of Douglas. Little did I know the influence this troubled writer had in the industry. The movie attempts to present, with moments of grace and some with a lack of dignity, the way he successfully started his own magazine. It presents it wonderfully with mellow and colorful versions of events. It does help with its representation of the 70s and 80s. however the key is honing in on the characters.
As for Douglas’s personality, there are many themes relayed across the screen. The joy of success, the anxiety of possible failure and the poisoned chalice of “it is never enough”. The movie manages to encapsulate the many faces of Douglas into a comedy. A Futile and Stupid Gesture is a comedy about a broken comedian’s understanding of comedy and not knowing how to deal with success. The movie you start with is a funny coming of age piece, and you lead into the third act with an adult lost and successful.
What about the performances?
There is not one single performance in this movie that fails support the story. Especially Douglas’s relationship Henry Beard. The man who helped him set up the National Lampoon.
Domhnall Gleeson plays Beard wonderfully, with an overshadowing supporting performance. He almost curtails the importance of Douglas’s story by executing a character who shows composure with his decision making and an air of tentativeness when he is forced into a confrontation. The duo represents two best friends who know they are funny and take the leap of faith to start a magazine. Their first act is brilliant. I would have happily watched an entire movie about their growing magazine empire.
Is A Futile and Stupid Gesture funny?
This is a comedy movie about comedy so whilst it is funny, it is not the belly-laugh funny. The Netflix Original is charming and acutely intimate with its importance of developing the lead character.
The greatest strength of the movie is that it allows the story to breathe. It does not soften or limit the case study; the film is brutally honest. Douglas was a comedy genius but not a perfect person. A Futile and Stupid Gesture wants you to understand that as part of the overall story arc.
It sounds like there is nothing you did not like about it?
You are probably right. I can honestly say that this biopic hit the right notes. Director David Wain has done a fine job. It is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination and it will not remain in the hall of fame for comedy films. What it did well is tell a story that I did not know about before, and I think audiences will appreciate how it tells it. Sometimes an “older” Douglas walks on to the screen and narrates from the front whilst events occur in the background and some of the things he says are a little bit on the line, but that is probably my only criticism.
Absolutely see it. A Futile and Stupid Gesture does well to envision a biographical account of Douglas Kenney. The movie is a sweet, charming representation of his life, successes and flaws.
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Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.