'Meeting Spencer' is one of those independent titles that simply sneaks up on you because before it came out on home video you'd never even heard of it. There's an ensemble cast here, and a wildly entertaining premise, but for some reason we never got to see it until it hit home video. Did it have any sort of theatrical release? Not that I can tell, although I think this movie would've killed on the festival circuit. So, did it play at any festivals? Again, nope. In 2010 director Malcolm Mowbray put together what must have been a very fun movie to shoot and we're just hearing about it now. It's a shame.
Harris Chappell (Jeffery Tambor) is a world-famous playwright who fell on hard times in Hollywood. Now he's made his way back to New York to rekindle his celebrity status on Broadway. He's primed and ready to go with an all-new play that is sure to take the city by storm. Joining him for dinner is Didi Ravenal (Melinda McGraw) who is a friend and promises to bring an investor who can make Harris' dream play a reality. Spencer West (Jesse Plemons) is the son of one of Harris' life-long friends who is meeting them at the restaurant for dinner.
The entire movie takes place in a New York City steakhouse as Harris is descended upon by greedy producers, cocky talent reps, and irritated actors. He's trying to keep the identity of his star actor a secret, but when stage talent Larry Lind (William Morgan Sheppard) walks in disguised in a poorly attached fake beard and mustache to argue about his contract you know that the movie is just going to get wackier and wackier. And it does.
'Meeting Spencer' is an endlessly enjoyable film. It plays out much like a play would. All the characters are confined to one space, but there are numerous things happening. Harris goes through jubilation and woe as he gets sad news and happy news about his future play all at the same time. Assumptions are boiled into reality as Harris finds himself caught in the never-ending flow of crazy coming his way.
This is one of those movies that you're likely to miss out on, just because you've never heard about it. That's a shame, because this is a movie for anyone who's in the mood for a good wry comedy. The screenplay is dripping with irony and a sarcastic wit. There are many laugh-out-loud moments that caught me totally off guard. I went into this expecting a dreary, low-budget movie experience, and came out realizing that I'd just discovered a gem. 'Meeting Spencer' is the type of movie I hope for as a critic when I find myself slogging through endless piles of straight-to-video trash. A movie that slipped far below the radar, but has finally found a life on home video. Do yourself a favor and seek it out. You won't be sorry.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Kino Lorber release is pressed onto a 25GB Blu-ray Disc and packed into a standard Blu-ray keepcase.
I'm sorry that I can't say that the video presentation lives up to the greatness of the movie itself. The movie was filmed in 2010? You could've fooled me. Instead the movie looks as soft as any 90s catalog title that has graced the format.
Detail isn't as nice as it could be. Faces are blurred, except for extreme close-ups which do feature a fair amount of detail. Not much though. This isn't one of those movies where you can see every pore and freckle. Skintones seem out of balance. They waver from naturalistic to having a reddish hue all in the same scene. There is noise which abounds throughout the film. Shadows have a crushing aspect to them which is very troublesome in the low-lit restaurant where the entire movie is set. Overhead light is harsh and washes out any detail there could've been when it hits skin or faces.
While this isn't as terrible looking as Kino's other release that I just reviewed, 'The Search for One-Eye Jimmy' it still leaves a lot to be desired. This movie was only filmed a couple years ago, there's no reason that it should look decades old already.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix isn't just lackluster, it's downright frustrating. Let's forget the fact that we're listening to a lossy mix here and focus on the technical snafus that occurred during the movie. There are a handful of scenes that feature terrible lip synching issues. One scene in particular shows a close-up on Tambor and all of his words are a half a beat behind the movements of his mouth. The audio soon corrects itself, but the damage is done. Again, this is a relatively new film. Mistakes like this shouldn't ever get past quality control and out on the open market.
After you get past the numerous synching issues the rest of the mix isn't that much better. A product of its meager budget the dialogue sounds as if it were recorded in a can. Music is brash and doesn't feature much, if any, low-end tones. Ambient sound is at a bar minimum even though the whole movie takes place in a somewhat busy restaurant. The audio would be disappointing without the technical gaffes, but with the synching issues it's almost recall status.
Oh how I wish 'Meeting Spencer' came to Blu-ray with a somewhat decent looking and sounding release. I'm not sure what the problem is since this is a new film. There are plenty of low-budget new films that are released on the format that don't have nearly as many problems as this one had. It's too bad to, because this really is a good little comedy. I guess we can chalk this one up to being a good flick on a bad disc.