In the short film field, comedies live and die by their punchlines. Fortunately, director David Janove’s Lose-Lose is full of pretty damn good ones, culminating with a denouement that is both hilarious and perfectly teed up by all that has come before it.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. To get to that oh-so-perfect ending, we need to go back and examine the rest of the film as a whole. Centering on a hot-shot divorce lawyer saddled with the arduous task of getting an explicit painting back to a jilted wife, Lose-Lose is a film precipitated on crude, yet entertaining comedy. Is it perfect? No…it runs a bit too long and overall could have benefited from a tighter structural execution, but its satirization of both the divorce process and a male obsession with winning makes for a fine use of 18 minutes of your time (just make sure to wear headphones if you’re viewing at work). It’s a film that will make you chuckle quite a bit, while also getting you caught up in the melodrama of it all.
Beyond that, the film looks great. I realize that seems like a somewhat pedantic compliment, but short comedy is often a sub-genre relegated to a “sketch” approach (i.e. cheap looking). Not the case here. Although Janove comes from a stage and comedic sketch background, he really pulled out all the stops here, culling together an impressive production team to give the film a stylish look and inhabiting the resulting cinematic world with professional actors. Movie nerds will most definitely recognize Eric Roberts, but the remaining cast—comprised of comedians and UCB theater improvisors—are equally adept. Both Mike Leffingwell and Anne Gregory have perfect timing. The film isn’t flashy in terms of “Ooo and Aaa” camera movement. Rather, Janove lets his players…well…play, giving them the breathing room in various takes to let their comedic sensibilities shine. The scene in the bathroom with an automatic paper dispenser was a personal favorite.
The inspiration for the story stems from real life—Janove’s father, a lawyer, had to deal with a similar divorce squabble over a painting (though, the “true events” never quite reached these levels of comedic pandemonium). At Short of the Week, we often ask ourselves what separates a “comedy sketch” from a “short film.” Well, while definitions are most certainly fluid, usually the distinction comes down to a developed story and characters. In the case of Janove’s film, as we watch the protagonist transform from cocky lawyer to a defeated husk of a man, it’s clear he’s managed to give his film a depth beyond just a one-joke punchline. But, you know—as I said—that punchline is pretty damn good…
Janove is currently an associate producer for Fine Brothers entertainment as well as the producer for the Lady to Lady podcast on the Maximum Fun network. To learn more, visit his website: davidjanove.com.