For Sam Hoffman’s feature film writing/directing debut Humor Me he valiantly attempted to build on his very successful web series (and book) Old Jews Telling Jokes with very mixed results. What he ended up with is a family comedy that older Jewish audiences will lap up, but others will sadly find rather lame at best.
This is the story of Nate (Jermaine Clement) a once successful playwright whose writing is ‘blocked’ as is his marriage too. When his wife, the breadwinner of the family, announces she is leaving him for an Italian billionaire, penniless Nate has no choice than to move with his father. The trouble is that Bob (Elliot Gould) lives in a retirement community in New Jersey where with his steady flow of crass jokes, he is the life and center of his elderly cronies.
Father and son are not close at all and their relationship has evidently deteriorated since Nate’s mother died. Bob refuses to discuss of a slightly sensitive or personal nature and just takes upon himself to bully Nate into taking some control of his own life which seems to have now totally ground to a stop. He sets up with a menial job in the Center, and when that falls through, Nate ends up with the unlikely task of directing four octogenarians from the drama group who are intent on performing a number from The Mikado.
It’s hardly a plot spoiler to say that this is the redemption of Nate as there is nothing subtle about the plot lines of this tale. First, though he has to be the object of lust of Helen one of his old actresses (Le Clanché du Rand), and possibly the love interest of Allison (Ingrid Michaelson) the only other person under 60 on the premises.
Probably the best thing about the film is Nate’s struggle that seems so real and always has us in his corner rooting for him, thanks mainly to Clement’s very sensitive performance. He also has the good fortune that his character is one of the very few that doesn’t resort to being a cliched stereotype
Gould, in a performance that he could have easily phoned in, doesn’t manage to get the laughs he should have got. They are reserved for the hysterical quartet of ladies who determinedly milk their scene from The Mikado with great success.
Bob keeps imploring Nate with ‘Humor me’, we just wish in the end that he had humored us a tad more