Who Invited Charlie
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Who Invited Charlie? 2023 Movie Review

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Who Invited Charlie? 2023 Movie Review

    Adam Pally, Jordana Brewster, and Reid Scott are three familiar faces you’ll quickly recognize from various past projects, such as The Mindy Project, the Fast & Furious franchise, and Veep, respectively. Together, they offer slapstick humor, profanity-laced bickering, and heart — sometimes all at the same time. While there have been various versions of pandemic life seen on-screen recently, a new film from director Xavier Manrique offers a unique take on the current era: What happens when an unexpected guest crashes your otherwise civilized quarantine?

    Who Invited Charlie?, available in theaters and on demand Feb. 3, tells the story of a troubled family hiding out in the Hamptons whose bubble is quickly popped when a pot-smoking “Charlie,” from their past, shows up unannounced, bringing with him some tough love and humor — in addition to a seemingly endless supply of cannabis. It’s a fun little indie project whose stars were clearly passionate about its production.

    Phil Schreiber (Scott) is a self-involved hedge fund manager who escapes to the Hamptons with his wife (Brewster) and son (Peter Dager) at the beginning of the ongoing pandemic. Before escaping the city, however, we watch on as he has a messy break-up with a secret lover, gets in a fight with a group of Santa Clauses — and runs into Charlie (Pally), Phil’s old college roommate and keeper of some of his darkest secrets. And then, wouldn’t you know it — Charlie quickly uses this leverage to crash Phil’s family hideaway outside the city. After all, Phil did say “I owe you” after their earlier run-in in NYC. To make matters worse for Phil, his wife Rosie and son Max come to love Charlie. As the colorful houseguest makes himself right at home, secrets are revealed that ultimately complicate things — without giving too much away.

    Along the way, however, Charlie befriends Max and helps him get to know a high-school crush via social media and beyond. It’s the subplot that effectively carries the most weight, as it rubs off on and affects Rosie and Phil as Max’s concerned parents. Dager is a young star-in-the-making as a son caught in the midst of the cold war between his parents. It’s no surprise, then, that he would turn to Charlie as a sort of father figure. Max simply needs to come out of his shell, a feeling we can all relate to. Dager’s hilarious and heartfelt scenes with Pally are the film’s strongest moments overall.

    And speaking of Charlie — it’s a role Pally is born to play. The Iron Man 3 actor, with an instantly recognizable look to him, is clearly a master of a very particular brand of dry, witty, foul-mouthed humor that seems to be growing in popularity on the comedy-genre front these days. We see this style of comedy across both the big and small screen. It clearly worked for him in The Mindy Project, and we see this sort of edgy humor in current shows like HBO Max’s The Sex Lives of College Girls.

    “One of the things I felt strongly about in the making of Who Invited Charlie? is that I wanted this film to have a very specific language tonally,” said director Xavier Manrique in a statement. “I didn’t want to make a statement-movie about Covid. I didn’t want to take sides politically. That’s not what this movie is about. It’s a movie about human beings in extraordinary circumstances. Charlie says it in the movie: “Nature’s a beast.” Trying to navigate what nature throws at us can be humorous. It is humorous. I wanted to make a movie that would allow people to laugh at the absurdity in the tragedy of the last couple of years.”

    Made in the midst of COVID, writer Nicholas Schutt successfully documents both the absurdities and fears of an era we’ve become all too accustomed to, I suppose. And thankfully, Who Invited Charlie? doesn’t rely only on Pally. The coupling of Jordana Brewster and Reid Scott works well. After all, it is refreshing to see her outside the “family” world that is the Fast & Furious universe. In a fun little indie project like Who Invited Charlie?, Brewster gets to broaden her acting range. Meanwhile, Reid Scott is pretty good at stealing whatever scene he’s in, no matter the character. On that note, I’d say it’s shame he never got at least an Emmy nod for his supporting, scene-stealing turn as sociopath Dan Egan in Veep.

    The icing on the cake in Who Invited Charlie? is the little B-story between Pally and Xosha Roquemore, who plays the family’s next-door neighbor. It’s a Mindy Project reunion of sorts — and certainly fun seeing their characters here flirt, especially knowing that Charlie has been giving Max dating advice throughout the film. Overall, Who Invited Charlie? succeeds as a relatable little comedy-drama that sheds light on an ongoing, real-world issue — and the folks who have to deal amid said troubling times.

    Who Invited Charlie? 2023 Movie Review

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