Bogged down by a leaden script, Meeting Spencer is a laughless farce devoid of any industry satire it clearly thinks it possesses. Taking place entirely in a Manhattan steakhouse as a washed-up theater director tries to get his career back on track, the film is constantly introducing new, increasingly outlandish obstacles to that goal, but Malcolm Mowbray’s staid direction thwarts any sense of comedic escalation.
It’s a film I really wanted to enjoy, as the great Jeffrey Tambor stars in a rare leading role as director Harris Chappell, a Tony winner whose foray into Hollywood ended rather poorly. There are the makings of a great Tambor character here — desperation and delusion seem like they ought to be written into Chappell’s DNA, a la the greatest Tambor character of them all, Hank Kingsley. Instead, we get a collection of banal tics (he hates musical theater, he has an eye for spotting rising talent) and little else. Tambor looks kind of bored, and it’s hard to blame him.
The film finds Chappell and former flame Didi Ravenal (Melinda McGraw) having dinner to discuss the production of a hot new script and meet with a little-known actor, Spencer West (Jesse Plemons), for the lead role. Chappell thinks the play is the buzzworthy shot in the arm his career needs, but before the night is over, he’ll have to deal with untrustworthy investors, actors looking to horn in on a part and a snooping New York Post reporter (one who’s apparently eager for a scoop on a has-been for some reason).
There’s absolutely no sense of momentum or cohesion between Chappell’s encounters with agents, actresses and financiers — each one seems to exist in its own disparate space. That almost every scene seems to function to trot out obvious observations about showbiz vanity, deceit and insincerity is hardly the film’s biggest problem.
The Blu-ray Disc
Presented in 1080p high definition in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Meeting Spencer looks OK in this transfer — probably about the best it could look, truthfully. Garish lighting doesn’t do the low-budget production any favors, and the resulting images here are surface-y, without any real sense of depth or texture. Low-light scenes often become clouded with digital noise. Colors seem reasonably accurate and the film is mostly sharp and clean, but this is hardly a visual wonder.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is adequate, sprinkling in some light restaurant ambiance with the clearly registering voices in the front channel. The atrocious tinkling score is perfectly clean as well.
Just an image gallery and the theatrical trailer.
The Bottom Line
Fans of satire, showbiz inside baseball and Jeffrey Tambor will likely all be disappointed with Meeting Spencer.