Not all celebrity endeavors end in wild success, and Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s “Project Greenlight” is an example of misguided celebrity endorsement. “Project Greenlight” gave an advanced screening of the show’s culminating film, “The Leisure Class,” to NYU students last Wednesday, followed by a Q&A with director Jason Mann. The goal of the HBO documentary series is to give aspiring filmmakers the opportunity to create a full-length feature film, and ultimately, to get their foot in the door of the Hollywood entertainment industry. Based on the resulting “The Leisure Class,” this might not be the case for Mann.
“The Leisure Class” is the culmination of season four of “Project Greenlight,” and it is a 90-minute film that is an extension of a short previously developed by Mann. The season followed the production of the film, with all its harships. While it is a noble effort on the part of executive producers Damon and Affleck, “The Leisure Class” is a film that should have been given the red light.
Leading th e film are actors Ed Weeks (“The Mindy Project”) and British comedian Tom Bell. The film begins at the pre-wedding dinner of Weeks’ character Charles Devonshire to Fiona Langston (Bridget Regan), the daughter of a wealthy senator. Charles Devonshire, however, is a farce: he is really the lower-class William Rooney, who pretends to be a high-class member of society in order to marry into wealth. However, his plan goes awry as his nomadic and eccentric brother Leonard (Tom Bell) shows up unannounced.
William tells his new family that Leonard is an old buddy from college named Dean. The two try to engage in what was probably intended to be witty comedic banter, but essentially sounds like bickering between two small children. Shifting between only two facial expressions, one of painful boredom and the other of uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues, Weeks delivered an awfully trite performance in portraying his deceptive character.
The plot has a lot of potential. There was plenty of room for delving deeper into the Freudian aspects of marital relationships, such as the marriage between a young woman and a man who is the spitting image of her overbearing father. However, Mann decided to take an alternate route; instead of probing more into the psyches of his characters, he provided underdeveloped characters with whom we are supposed to sympathize with, but instead care less and less about throughout the course of the film.
While it is definitely reasonable to give Mann the benefit of the doubt, some issues can’t be ignored. The entirety of the film was shot in 20 days and they were working on a tight budget, yet the cannot be blamed on the cinematography or the aesthetics. Instead, it was in the acting and way in which the plot was employed. What could have been a shining example of the payoff for Hollywood producers taking a chance on amateur filmmakers calls the audition process for “Project Greenlight” into question.
“The Leisure Class” will premiere on HBO at 10 p.m. on Monday.
A version of this article appeared in the Nov. 2 print edition. Email Dejarelle Gaines at [email protected]