Review: ‘Here Today’

By EDDY FRIEDFELD
For the Record
Posted 5/21/21

Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish star in “Here Today,” a poignant comedy.

Crystal plays Charlie Burnz, a famed comedy playwright, author, and screenwriter, who en route to work from …

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Review: ‘Here Today’

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Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish star in “Here Today,” a poignant comedy.

Crystal plays Charlie Burnz, a famed comedy playwright, author, and screenwriter, who en route to work from his Manhattan home, has to call out the direction he needs to go so he can remember.

He reaches the studio of a comedy cable channel, where he is a staff writer on a “Saturday Night Live” type show. He sits in on a writing session with a team decades younger than himself. He returns his office to write notes on a typewriter.

“There’s this new invention called computers. You may want look into getting one,” his boss says.

“I know. But I like this. We started out together. I like the feel of the paper. I like when you hit the key, it leaves a mark on the paper that wasn’t there before. But I did treat myself to one of these,” he says, producing a cellphone.

“Do you know how to work it?”

“Of course. Unless I want to send an email, a text, or make a phone call.”

He attends a lunch that is part of a charity auction. Emma Payge (Haddish) appears, who is the ex-girlfriend of the winner auction, an actor who wanted to meet Charlie, but is now the ex due to his infidelity.

Emma has a terrible allergic reaction to the seafood and winds up in the hospital. Charlie is asked to fill out the hospital forms. “What is your relationship with the patient?” the nurse asks.

“She won me at an auction.”

Emma doesn’t have insurance and Charlie pays for her bills.

He beats his son, Rex (Penn Badgley) in tennis at his club, but then can’t remember where his locker is. “I can forget what I had for lunch while I’m having lunch,” he tells his doctor (Anna Deavere Smith), but tells her about his flashbacks.

“How’s the writing?” she asks.

“It helps. And it strengthens my denial.”

Charlie falls asleep at his typewriter and is awakened to the sound of Emma screaming after being knocked down on his sidewalk. She has come to repay part of her medical expenses.

In his apartment, Emma marvels at his awards and all the pictures of Charlie with celebrities on the walls of his apartment, including Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, and Mel Brooks.

“According to this wall, you’re not only pretty ancient, you’re also pretty famous,” she says.

She also notices that he has yellow post it notes next to his family with their names written down.

“How’d you become a writer?”

“When I was a kid I thought that it would be fun to take the truth and make it more interesting.”

“There’s a music to comedy and that guy is perpetually out of tune,” he says about one of the actors on the show, as the producers question why they still need him.

At a reunion for a movie Charlie wrote that is hosted by Bob Costas and that starred Sharon Stone and Kevin Kline and directed by Barry Levinson (appearing as themselves), Levinson says that he and Charlie met on “The Carol Burnett Show” where Levinson actually started out as a writer. Charlie’s memory temporarily goes on him during the show.

Emma attends, gives Charlie the next payment installment, and takes him to her job as a singer in a jazz band. A friendship develops. Charlie’s dementia worsens, and as he is determined to write one last piece in tribute to his late wife before his words leave him, Emma helps take care of him.

Directed by Crystal from a script co-written by Crystal and Alan Zweibel, based on Zweibel’s short story “The Prize,” the film is smart and sentimental.                                                                            

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