Director(s): Billy Crystal
Writer(s): Billy Crystal, Alan Zweibel
Cast: Billy Crystal, Tiffany Haddish
Synopsis: When veteran comedy writer Charlie Burnz meets New York street singer Emma Payge, they form an unlikely yet hilarious and touching friendship that kicks the generation gap aside and redefines the meaning of love and trust.
Billy Crystal has a bursting personality and a wildly infection screen presence that graced audiences in films like When Harry Met Sally…, but for how well he is in front of the camera, he hasn’t had the most success behind it. Following Mr. Saturday Night and Forget Paris, Billy Crystal has hopped back in the director chair to helm his first film in over 20 years.
After watching Here Today, I think he should go ahead and hang up the directors chair and stick to acting. I just don’t think there is anything for him, career wise, in directing. The choices he made in this film were aggressively on the nose and confusing as an audience member. The move that was the most jarring throughout the movie was the overuse of Point of View in the flashback sequences. This story is brought forward through a multitude of flashbacks, and each one of them is, quite literally, told through the eyes of Charlie Burnz (Billy Crystal). This decision pulled me out of the film in a major way because it made it feel like we were the ones in the situation, when we should have just been seeing the situation play out. There was never a disconnect between Burnz and the audience that we needed to appreciate these throwbacks, and instead it felt more like the South Park “Richard” skit instead of a real film. With a better director and a more focused vision, this film really could have been something special for Crystal, but he only hurt himself with how he tried to portray this intimate story.
It is a shame that Crystal’s direction plagues the film so much, because his performance truly is fantastic. Playing an aging comedy writer with dementia, it seems like Crystal is trying to preserve his own legacy in the same way Burnz was trying to. Crystal is at his most vulnerable and taps into a side of him we have never seen.
Tiffany Haddish didn’t really bring anything to this film for me. I think Haddish is a good comedic actress, but in this film she just felt miscast and misused. I appreciate her stepping out of her comfort zone a little bit and trying to do something with a little more depth to it, but the chemistry wasn’t there with Crystal to really make this a role worth hanging onto.
Overall, this movie really is an ambitious and meaningful project for Crystal, and with better direction, this could have been a film and performance for the ages from Crystal. However, he gets in his own way too much, and the sum of everything comes out to a questionably boring film with a great performance in front.
Final: Here Today gives us Billy Crystals most vulnerable performance as an actor; but also the most aggressive he has been behind the camera. Instead of just being heartfelt, Crystal wants to prove to us it’s heartfelt with some truly insane storytelling decisions. Parts of this is funny, but the movie didn’t fully dive into the right story it should’ve told. Haddish was also insanely miscast in this. It is a real shame that what might be Crystal’s best work is hindered by his own hand.
Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.