Producers: Michael Pontin, Isabel Stanfield and Jamie Hilton Director: Josh Lawson Screenplay: Josh Lawson Cast: Rafe Spall, Zahra Newman, Ronny Chieng, Josh Lawson, Dena Kaplan and Noni Hazlehurst Distributor: Saban Films
Josh Lawson’s dramedy can be described both as a twist on Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and as a somewhat more refined version of Adam Sandler’s “Click.” Unhappily, the second option seems the more accurate.
Written and directed by Josh Lawson, an Australian actor who recently appeared as the turncoat Kano in the “Mortal Kombat” reboot (and who takes a secondary role here), the slender tale is about Teddy (Rafe Spall), a commitment-resistant procrastinator who’s finally cornered into proposing to his longtime girlfriend Leanne (Zahra Newman). But shortly after the ceremony he’s approached by a strange woman (Noni Hazlehurst) who gives him a gift—though whether it’s a blessing or a curse only time will tell.
Simply put, after her intervention Teddy jumps forward a year after spending only a brief time in each of them. So the day after the honeymoon is quickly followed by his waking a year later, only to find to his horror that Leanne is pregnant, even though they’d apparently agreed not to have children. As the process continues, their marriage runs into trouble and they separate; he’s shocked one morning to find that she has a boyfriend (Lawson).
Each year he also spends time with his best friend Sam (Ronny Chieng), who’s the only person with whom he shares what he’s experiencing. Sam proves sympathetic to his plight, and helps him keep up with what’s been happening during his “absence”—at least until tragedy intervenes.
This can’t continue indefinitely, of course—a romantic comedy-drama shouldn’t exceed a reasonable running-time, after all—and so the strange woman reappears to set things right after Teddy has learned to look around him, smell the roses and enjoy life to the fullest.
That message is hardly revelatory, and frankly Lawson’s script doesn’t do much to present it in the best terms. Watching “Long Story Short” is rather like reading the Cliffs Notes of a novel, or the chapter headings to “David Copperfield” without bothering with the actual text. One gets a sketch of what the situation is on a single morning of each year, but not how things got that way, or why the characters had developed as they did. It’s like a cinematic sketch rather than a full painting. And, of course, you just have to swallow the premise as is, without even the explanation that “It’s a Wonderful Life” or even “Click” offers, as fanciful as that might be.
Perhaps it might work better if Spall played Teddy with greater subtlety. As it is, his hyperactivity is more reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart than Adam Sandler, but so over-the-top that Jerry Lewis comes to mind. Newman is attractive but overshadowed; indeed, the only other person who stands out is Chieng, who at least gets a real character arc to toy with, while Hazlehurst brings more to her two scenes than they deserve. The technical side—Matt Toll’s cinematography, Steven Jones-Evan’ production design, Kasra Rassoulzadegan’s editing and Chiara Costanza’s score—are adequate but little more.
“Long Story Short” is nice enough but oddly pallid, a riff on taking time to appreciate life that rushes through one man’s without leaving much of an impression. Just call it “Long Story Slight.”