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“The Argument” Masks Its Creativity Before Embracing Its Weirdness

For a significant portion of the The Argument’s running time, there’s a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop. The set up for the film isn’t particularly strong, and all throughout the first act, it’s hard not to feel like the production is going through the motion. It actually isn’t until the third act that things kick into gear, especially in terms of getting unique and weird. So, as the flick opens today, the question before me is the following: is one really good act enough to warrant a recommendation? It depends on the title in question, but for The Argument, the answer is a low-key yes.

The movie is a comedy, focusing on a small group of people and the rather unusual situation they find themselves in. When Jack (Dan Fogler) and Lisa (Emma Bell) disagree in the opening scene, it seems like something that’s going to stick with the former, more so than the latter. However, when they get into another argument at a cocktail party they’ve thrown, with friends Brett (Danny Pudi) and Sarah (Maggie Q) in attendance, as well as Paul (Tyler James Williams) and Trina (Cleopatra Coleman), it escalates, ultimately bringing the gathering to a close. Determined to figure out who was right, Jack and Lisa come up with a unique solution. They invite everyone back to recreate the night. First it’s one time, but then it becomes night after night, until it becomes an obsession, one which resolves itself in a way you certainly will not see coming. Robert Schwartzman directs a screenplay by Zac Stanford, with cinematography by Michael Rizzi. Rounding out the cast are Karan Brar, Charlotte McKinney, Mark Ryder, Marielle Scott, and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett.

It takes a long while for this one to get going. For some, it’ll be too long. The running time is short, but the pacing isn’t especially good, something director Robert Schwartzman struggled a bit with in his debut Dreamland, but had seemingly gotten a better handle on in his follow up The Unicorn. Here, working off of Zac Stanford’s script, he eventually settles in and develops a rhythm, but some will have checked out by then. Such is the risk in an iffy first act. I will say, the third act is kind of brilliant, more than making up for the initial see-saw of it all.

The Argument does feature some interesting performances, with Maggie Q stealing the show with an absolutely hilarious supporting turn. She’s cutting and deadpan in a way that the flick desperately needs, and utilizes well, for that matter. Dan Fogler is broader than the character needs to be, while Emma Bell is a bit too under-served, considering she’s a central character, but when the ensemble is all bouncing off of each other, Schwartzman and Stanford have something fun cooking. The film doesn’t have any real laugh out loud moments, dialogue wise, so it’s up to the players to find the humor in the bizarre situation. Luckily, after the first act, they really start humming along.

Now playing, The Argument is a dark comedy that waits a bit long to expose its weirdness, but has something ultimately unique to offer. Impatient audiences may not want to go along for the ride, but anyone willing to invest some time (even without a long running length) and forgive a slow start will end up with something interesting. Give it a shot and see what you think, especially if you’ve liked one of Schwartzman’s other works. This is a different movie, but certainly in keeping with his broad interests.

Be sure to check out The Argument, available to watch today!

(Photos courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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