CRASH PAD: A Strange Choice For Domhnall Gleeson
While neither boring or a laugh-riot, Crash Pad is a perfectly fine and forgettable way to pass ninety minutes.
Domhnall Gleeson’s is a star in the ascendant. In the last five years, he has landed a place in the Star Wars reboot ensemble, acted alongside Leonardo Di Caprio in the multiple-Oscar winner The Revenant, and made a brief but important appearance in mother! , the most talked about film of 2017 (so far). There have also been multiple roles in smaller, critically lauded films like Ex Machina, Calvary, and Brooklyn.
And so it is a mystery why he decided to take the lead in Crash Pad, a middling comedy, only notable for just how middling it is. Gleeson has shown his comedic chops before, in Richard Curtis’s About Time, and Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank. But those films had a weight to them, they arrived in the world with anticipation and acclaim. Crash Pad has not so much arrived as appeared, unheralded, destined to a brief appearance in cinemas before finding a permanent home deep in the bowels of Netflix.
Stensland (Gleeson), is distraught to discover that Morgan (Christina Applegate), the older woman he has spent the weekend having sex with after a heated encounter in a soft furnishings store, is married. He’s even more distraught when he finds out that Morgan’s husband is Grady (Thomas Haden Church), a successful, moustachioed lawyer – twice his age and thrice as manly.
Grady arrives at the house of his cuckold, intending to inflict violence. When Grady actually meets Stensland, he is shocked that he is the man his wife chose to cheat with. Scrawny, messy, and obsessed with 90’s hit teen show Dawson’s Creek, it’s soon clear that Stensland is not a real threat; to beat him up would truly be kicking a man when he is down. Stensland is in a permanent state of ‘down’.
So Grady decides that the best way to get revenge on his wife is not to beat up Stensland, but to move in with him. Unsurprisingly, this unusual living situation causes chaos in the lives of both men, as well as the woman they have in common.
One possible reason for Gleeson choosing Crash Pad is the presence of Thomas Haden Church. What young actor wouldn’t relish the prospect of stepping into Paul Giamatti‘s shoes and trying to recapture that odd-couple comedy magic of Sideways? There’s a further link between the two films – Crash Pad‘s director Kevin Tent is Alexander Payne‘s long-time editor, and Payne is credited as an executive producer here.
Well, Crash Pad is no Sideways.
Crash Pad only has one thing to say, and it makes this point in as broad a way possible. Stensland and Grady are at opposite ends of the masculinity scale. Grady and his Selleck-ian mustache go through the world in a misogynistic fugue (over the course of the film he refers to women as dogs, cars, and ‘bucks’). He puts away the strongest whiskeys as if they were water, and scorns Stensland when he suggests spending a night in. He may be a throwback, but he has confidence and professional success, two things that Stensland lacks.
Stensland is a cartoon version of the millennial man, only far less fashionable. He not only wears socks with sandals, but the socks have a hole in the toe. He is so distraught over his ‘break up’ with Morgan that he loses his (part-time) job. Each morning he reads himself an inspirational speech he has written by his mirror. He is really too invested in Dawson’s Creek.
It’s obvious what the two must learn from each other; Stensland would clearly benefit from Grady’s confidence, and Grady, Stensland’s sensitivity. It’s obvious where the movie is going to go. Poor Christina Applegate (as above this material as her male co-stars, yet still ill-served by it), is ready and waiting as the trophy for the successful man.
Watching the film chug down its predictable track could have been a numbingly tedious experience, but Crash Pad delivers just enough of merit to keep it watchable.
The Good Bits
The MVP of Crash Pad is Domhnall Gleeson. He needn’t have put in much effort, and yet he attacks the role with as much gusto as he does his more prestigious characters. Stensland is, for the most part, a pretty pathetic person, and a lesser actor could have played him whiny and unlikeable. Gleeson easily avoids that trap, and portrays a man that anyone could relate to, especially when confronted by the oppressive, unyielding machismo of Grady.
Though Church turns in another reliably entertaining performance, the highlights are not his exchanges with Gleeson, but when Gleeson is responding to the bizarre position he has found himself in. When Stensland’s friend reacts to the age disparity between Stensland and Morgan, Stensland responds, “Don’t make her sound like Jessica Tandy, she’s in her July!”. The only funny part of the interminable bar-hopping scenes is when Stensland remarks upon a woman’s ‘Harlem Mugger’ cocktail – “What’s in it, racism?” Gleeson‘s delivery is a tour-de-force of discomfort and bewilderment; he keeps you on side, even when it seems the film is doing everything possible to send you to sleep.
Having said that, there are occasional flickers of ingenuity, of screenwriter Jeremy Catalino trying something a little different. There are two dream sequences which are goofy in an endearing sort of way; one involving Gleeson wearing a fake mustache, the other involving a fake Billy Ocean. Talking of Ocean (who, according to IMDB ‘declined the opportunity to play himself ‘), Gleeson dresses like him in a scene that plays over the end credits, and performs his own iconoclastic dance routine. These odd-ball moments speak to a more interesting film that unfortunately gets buried under the tedious conventions of the studio comedy.
In Conclusion: Crash Pad
Crash Pad is fine. These actors are all too good for the film, but no one phones it in, and subsequently they raise the level of the material. Whilst the conceit is as unbelievable as it is dull, the dialogue is of a better standard than you might expect in a film of this type. It isn’t a laugh-riot, but neither is it boring. It’s a perfectly fine way to pass ninety minutes, but you’ll soon forget you ever saw it.
What’s your favourite Domhnall Gleeson performance? Do you prefer him in comedy or drama? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!
Crash Pad will be released in the US on October 27th. For future release dates, click here.
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