Cast: Gillian Jacobs, Zachary Knighton, David Krumholtz
*When this film opened at the festival it was titled “Teddy Bears” but was later picked up by a distributor who renamed the movie “The Big Ask”
There are plenty of comedies out there featuring young twenty something couples, but very few of them aim to be more than just a sit com. The Big Ask is an intriguing independent comedy from writer/director Thomas Beatty I had the pleasure of screening at the Phoenix Film Festival. The film may sport some impressive production values, but does it do anything unique and memorable enough to demand our attention?
The Big Ask is the story of a group of friends who ban together to help their emotionally devastated friend Andrew (David Krumholtz) after the death of his mother. Andrew’s girlfriend Hannah (Melanie Lynskey) invites their friends Owen (Jason Ritter) and his girlfriend Emily(Gillian Jacobs) along with Dave (Zachary Knighton) and his girlfriend Zoe (Ahna O’Reilly) to vacation in the desert for a weekend. Despite all his friends being together, Andrew still seems very distant and closed off. His friends want to do anything they can to cheer him up until he confesses the only thing that will make him happy is if all of the girls join together to have sex with him. His shocking confession sets an awkward tone for what will undoubtably will be an unforgettable weekend for everyone involved.
The setting of the movie isn’t anything particularly new with recent films like Drinking Buddies and Couples Retreat using a pretty familiar premise, but what really sets The Big Ask apart from the rest of the herd is its engrossing atmosphere that immediately sucks you into the melancholy mindsets our characters are living in. It’s a somber tone that creates a sense of dread to the whole scenario playing out as these friends slowly come to terms with their own struggles as they try to sort through Andrew’s mess. The unique tone comes thanks to a strong vision, some excellent cinematography from up and comer Aaron Kovalchik, and an effectively subtle score from Julian Wass that plucks at the heartstrings in all the right moments.
The film has an impressively smart, tight, and personable script that is given some great liveliness thanks to the cast and exceptional direction. These actors bring in enough in just enough charisma to make some of these easily detestable decisions believable. While not all of the the character motivations are completely clear, the baggage these characters bring in with them suggests a deeper history that isn’t on screen. I wasn’t personally thrown by the lack of information on some of the relationship history, but it could easily frustrate other viewers.
The Big Ask may be dark, but it isn’t all dread thanks to some smart and well timed humor that is spread throughout just enough to keep the movie from totally sliding into the dull drums. The jokes lean on the awkward scenarios surrounding Andrew’s condition and despite the drama of the situation, the movie remains a comedy through and through even if it isn’t a giant laughing machine.
This isn’t a movie I would call mainstream and I can’t say this is a movie that everyone will fall in love with, but for the right audience, this is an exceptional indie film that balances enough character drama to give you the feels, but enough laughs to to be an altogether enjoyable experience. Overall I think The Big Ask is a great little comedy for viewers who like a little more to their laughs than just the punchline.