Sometimes when a director packs his film chock full of famous celebrity buddies it doesn’t always turn out for the best. While Adam Sandler is hands down the worst offender here, it works greatly in Judd Apatow’s favor. When you’re Mark Webber, and your film is making its debut on the U.S. Dramatic ballot at the Sundance Film Festival, having some friends to help you out isn’t such a bad thing. Especially when your friends consist of Michael Cera, Jason Ritter, Amanda Seyfried, Aubrey Plaza, and Alia Shawkat. It may be called The End of Love, but it’s doubtful this would ever mark the end of Webber’s career.
Writer/director Webber plays a fictionalized version of himself (along with the rest of the cast), who is an aspiring actor. He also doesn’t seem to have that great of luck in Hollywood. He lives in a spare room at his friend’s house on a mattress he shares with his two-year-old son, Isaac (Webber’s real life son). Being a single parent is hard enough, I’m sure it’s a whole other story when you have to tote your child along to auditions. They visit what at first Isaac calls a park with lots of flowers. He’s obviously too young to understand that they’re visiting a cemetery. Mark’s wife (in the film) has passed away and we’re not told why. Meanwhile, as Mark and Isaac are out running errands, they twice run into a beautiful mystery girl. When they eventually run into her at the playland she owns, he finally introduces himself to Lydia (Shannyn Sossamon).
After Mark finds out his car has been towed he asks Lydia if the two of them can have a ride home. After exchanging numbers, Mark and Isaac go to Lydia’s house for a playdate as she has a daughter of her own. While the kids may be getting along, things take a turn for the premature and Mark is out of there. When he receives a call from Cera that he’s having a celebrity filled game night at his house, Mark looks on Craigslist for a sitter for Isaac in hopes of finding some escape — if just for one night. When he tries to hook up at the party with an old friend, Jocelin (Jocelin Donahue), she learns he has a son and becomes uncomfortable. When he wakes up the next morning after passing out in Cera’s bed, he starts coming to terms with having to face the challenge of growing up and facing his wife’s death.
When your main co-star is your own two-year-old son, it could be either more difficult to make a feature film or easier. As Webber explained during the Q&A following the screening, it was a little of both. Using tactics such as shielded cameras, improvisation, and single takes, he manages to get amazing performances out of his son as well as himself. When you know you aren’t going to be getting another chance to get it right, it counts to make sure you do it right the first time. And if you think that the project could be seen as just a way to pass off home video footage as a feature film, this is far from America’s Funniest Home Videos. While Isaac’s naïveté helps make for some hilarious moments, he also manages to coerce a spectacular performance out of his dad, helping to make The End of Love so much more than just another throwaway passion project we see every year at the festival.
Photo courtesy Poor Rich Kids