Lemon. This is a word that may bring to mind the bright, acidic fruit in all its yellow glory, or perhaps it will conjure images of an unreliably derelict vehicle. Janicza Bravo and Brett Gelman (married in rea life) use the concept of the latter mental image and inject this idea into one man's whole existence with ‘Lemon’, a delightfully awkward comedy that is the darkest of sorts.
‘Lemon’ follows Isaac (Brett Gelman) as he navigates his artistic struggle of a life following his being dumped by girlfriend Ramona (Judy Greer) who can be painfully distant, both physically and emotionally. When you combine this with his teach/student relationship with Alex (Michael Cera) that teeters back and forth between lustful and envy-driven, you make for awkward interactions aplenty.
Bravo and Gelman wrote a script together that is somehow supremely cringey while constantly dripping with a charm that is borderline twee. In a good way. Grace Alie’s subtle but delicious choices production design choices throughout are brilliantly lit and shot by Jason McCormick from beginning to end. The entire crew seems dedicated to making Gelman, look as good as possible as he bounces from insulting, then praising, a perfectly talented student (Gillian Jacobs) to embarrassing himself in front of a kind-hearted makeup artist (Nia Long) while meeting her extended family.
The life of Isaac is one of both distinct familiarity and absolute absurdity that may leave audiences feeling they have just witnessed an emotionally broken, misunderstood man. Others may feel they have witnessed the comings and goings of a borderline sociopath who lacks all ability to navigate the world. Regardless of how you feel about Isaac as a character, ‘Lemon’ will still be a divisive film made by confident artists that was never meant to please masses. And that's just fine.
If you find yourself a fan of any one of the many talented members of this cast or someone who enjoys the darker side of the comedic world, ‘Lemon’ is certainly something you should give a chance. You may leave feeling you have wasted your time on a meandering, over-serious farce, but I believe most will find an intelligently written and confidently directed gem fueled by the life experiences of two people from quite different worlds that is worth far more than the runtime asks.