Director: Billy Crystal
Writers: Billy Crystal and Alan Zweibel
Starring: Billy Crystal, Tiffany Haddish, Penn Badgley, Laura Benanti and Louisa Krause
2021 is apparently the year of dementia films. The Father with Anthony Hopkin’s Oscar winning performance started the year, the overlooked Supernova with an emotional story between Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci came up next. Here Today is Billy Crystal’s take on the subject, which he co-wrote, directed and starred in. Based on the short story The Prize, which was written by the co-writer of the screenplay Alan Zweibel, Here Today looks at dementia through the lens of a rom-com.
Billy Crystal stars as Charlie Burnz, an aging comedy writer who is suffering with the early stages of dementia. Charlie ends up having lunch with Emma Payge (Tiffany Haddish, Girl’s Trip) thanks to charity auction where lunch with Charlie is won for $22. They end up becoming unlikely friends and Emma is the only person to know about Charlie’s condition.
This is a very schmaltzy film, which is probably going to put off a few people straight away. If you can get passed that, then there is a genuinely moving and touching story to be found. Yes, it is overly sentimental. Yes, it shies away from the harsher moments of dementia. And yes, there are a few too many moments that come together in an almost perfect way towards the end. But beyond all of that is two incredibly strong performances from Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish. They are both excellent and the chemistry between them is great. The characters are polar opposites but work very well together.
There is a lot of very funny moments in this film. Crystal tackles dementia with great humour and moments of true sadness. Aside from moments where Charlie forgets names and one moment when his routine is interrupted it doesn’t really deal with the horrific nature of dementia. There is enough there to make the film genuinely emotional at points, but this isn’t The Father, and it isn’t trying to be. Here Today is a funny, touching look at a horrible disease and it works so well.
The characters are great, and you do care about Charlie. He’s trying to write a book for his late wife, Carrie, and he’s struggling. Through conversations with Emma, we get to see his life through first person flashbacks. The meeting of Carrie up to her eventual death. It’s told really well and is heart breaking. It may not show the worst moments of dementia but because you get such a great idea of who Charlie is, it hits so much harder than The Father. This is a truly emotional film that will have a lot of the audience in tears.
Here Today is a great rom-com. It deals with dementia in a funny way and at the same time is about so much more than just the diseases. There is an interesting family dynamic between Charlie and his two children, that is explored nicely. It touches on the changes in comedy from Charlie’s heyday to the modern sketches. There’s also a great budding friendship with Charlie and Emma. This is a great little film that, in the UK at least, has been completely overshadowed by Marvel’s latest offering. It’s definitely worth seeking out if you get the chance.