Odd Brodsky is a quirky comedy about following your dreams and finding your bliss. The film was part of the alumni spotlight for the 2014 Dances With Films Festival, and is still making the rounds on the film festival circuit to much acclaim. The film screened on June 17 at the Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto, Canada, and was nominated for “Best Foreign Feature” and “Best in Show”. The film was one of only two nominations in each of these categories.
The Female Eye Film Festival presented 86 films directed by women from all around the globe, including Armenia, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Iran, India, Australia, Taiwan, Uganda, the United States, and the Philippines.
Odd Brodsky is a female-centric film, with only four of the 9 principal roles being male. So while co-writer and director Cindy Baer strives to make her mark as a director in the vein of Wes Anderson and the Cohen Brothers, she is also making an effort to improve the odds for female entertainers and directors in the entertainment industry.
Odd Brodsky centers around Audrey Brodsky (Tegan Ashton Cohan), an unusual, odd-shaped peg of a girl without a corresponding hole for which she fits. Audrey is encouraged by her loving mother to pursue the arts, particularly acting; even though she lacks the necessary gifting or facility for it. After her mother’s death, Audrey decides to leave the small town where she has grown up and move to in Hollywood, Calif., to pursue acting and live out her dreams.
Fast forward 11 years later. Audrey is still unusual, odd-shaped, with no corresponding hole. However, she has managed to ram herself into an office job that she hates, and then manages to get herself promoted at this same job! Audrey finds moral support with a group called “the Angels”, five females who speak truth and try to encourage each other through “tough love” to live their best life. Sammy (played by Baer) runs the group and while the group gives advice to another Angel struggling with work, Audrey has the epiphany that she too should quit her job and go back to pursuing her dream of acting.
To save on expenses, Audrey takes on a sexy roommate named Spuds (Scotty Dickert), a pot-smoking, well-connected background actor. Her lack of talent presents itself early on, so she decides to create a reality show about her own life, hiring a cameraman (Matthew Kevin Anderson) to follow her around and show the building of the life and career she truly wants.
Here is where the comedy should have kicked in, but the moments of Audrey’s life are merely sad, and not very laughable. You have antics and screwball situations that don’t play well, and characters that lack charisma or motivation.
Cohan does her best to embody the peculiarities of Audrey, but fails to invest us in her journey. We see Audrey as a doormat, and you really don’t get past that assessment. It takes far too long to get to Audrey finding her voice, and when she does, we don’t really care. There are plenty of themes explored in this film—being the odd person out, not fitting in, desiring to be loved and accepted for who you are—all good subjects to explore, but none of them were delved into very deeply. Perhaps this is part of the issue on why none of them worked well—too many spinning plates to manage. This writer is a fan of both Anderson and the Coen Brothers, and from their early works to their Academy-Award winners, there has been no lack of investment in the main characters. Through the quirkiness, unusual situations, and laugh-out-loud moments, you always know who the characters are, what motivates them, and a revelation of the layers that make up each role, and how they affect each other. Audrey and her cohorts come off two-dimensional at best, and the character arcs that could have been built between Audrey and Sammy, and Audrey and the rest of the Angels are either dropped, or are inconsistent. Audrey’s relationship with her father is also a gray area; you see hints through the fog, but there is no light-bearing revelation with this essential arc or these two pivotal characters.
The dialogue is wooden and one-dimensional, lacking any impetus or rhythm that drives comedies such as this. The most inspired piece of dialogue is when Audrey and Kitty (one of the Angels played by Christina Moses) are in a park and notice a baby. Kitty tells the mom that her baby is beautiful. Audrey challenges Kitty about this, not believing that Kitty really sees the baby as beautiful. Kitty replies, “She was absolutely perfect.” Audrey responds, “She was perfect. She’s perfect because nobody has told her she’s not yet.”
That was the most in depth insight we had into Audrey, how she really feels about herself, and what she is truly trying to overcome. The tragedy is that this line came 80 minutes into a 94-minute film. Much of the story is one note: the same sight gags and scenarios seen in any comedy about the entertainment industry (Waiting for Guffman, State and Main), but in those films, they actually work towards a payoff. Baer strings them together for the sake of parading them out, but without any clear through line, focus, or comedic culmination. Like all good films, comedies have particular beats, and this one drops the ball with many of them, along with the missed opportunities to deepen the character arcs and the overall story.
The music is the signature piece of this film—engaging, fun, appropriately building the lighthearted, frenetic, and unusual vibe. It is the central piece that moves the plot along, literally dragging the players along with it. The end credits were great fun to watch and showed a development and attention that was missing in the rest of the production.
The word “quirky” fits this independent film, and this writer admires Baer’s effort and commitment to tell a female-centric story in a way that lacks stridency. If that quirkiness was all it took to make an enjoyable movie experience, then Baer would have succeeded. Unfortunately, Odd Brodsky is uneven, with a few clever scenarios and lines to hook you in, but ultimately ending up lacking engagement, inspiration or humor.