The Argument (2020)

“Then can we stop. Because I don’t want to argue.”
“I don’t want to argue either, honey. As long as you can admit I’m right.”

— Lisa and Jack discovering common ground

I’ve been diggin’ Dan Fogler ever since he first came to widespread notice as the plastic surgeon-foil (specializing in breasts, as only Dan Fogler can) to Dane Cook’s romance-cursed dentist in Good Luck Chuck. Then there’s his memorable work in Balls of Fury with Christopher Walken (!) and the Star Wars-homage Fanboys. And, of course, his most recent work in the Fantastic Beasts franchise.

His latest film . . . well, from my perspective, is a Miramax and Fox Searchlight homage to those 90s-halcyon days of driving to an outside-of-the-big-city six-plex with a screen or two dedicated to those indie comedies starring the likes of Steve Buscemi and Catherine Keener in Walking and Talking, Johnny Suede, and Living in Oblivion, or seeing John Turturro with Griffin Dunne in Search and Destroy—and always walking out of the theatre satisfied. (One of those indie-delights was 2005’s The Chumscrubber, written by The Argument‘s screenwriter, Zach Stanford.)

Of course, with the dual onslaughts of bat-viruses and digital streaming, a great, laugh out loud film such as The Argument, sadly, doesn’t have a ‘90s chance in hell of becoming an indie cult classic in theatres. And the streaming universe of today is a tough marketplace for a movie to shine through for discovery.

Hopefully, this review on this little puff of the cloud will alter the clogged, digital tributaries of fate for this, the third directing effort from musician Robert Schwartzman (you’ve heard his songs on TV’s The O.C., One Tree Hill, and Pretty Little Liars), whose initial forays into directing produced the under-the-streaming radar indie-award winners Dreamland (2016) and The Unicorn (2018).

The cast of The Argument: Dan Fogler, Danny Pudi and Maggie Q; courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.

It’s almost a disservice to Schwartzman’s skills as a director to mention his Hollywood pedigree, for a filmmaker’s work should always stand tall on its own merits—of which The Argument has many. But with so many streaming choices vying for our coin—and taking into an account the purpose of a film review is to inspire you to see the film—we’ll have to cheat a little bit and tell you that Schwartzman’s name is familiar because his brother Jason is an actor you know well. And his mother is Talia Shire. And his Uncle is Francis Ford Coppola. His cousin is Nicolas Cage (Arsenal)* and his ex-cousin-in-law is Spike Jonze (Adaptation).

The Argument—the one where Jack is always right—is a pseudo-meta narrative commenting on the romantic repetition of relationships that turns the concept of there’s always three sides to a story: “your side, their side . . . and the truth” on its head.

Jack is a “genius” playwright and screenwriter with a middling successful, “repetitive” zombie tale on his resume (it did okay overseas), scratching n’ begging for his next gig. Lisa (Emma Bell of AMC-TV’s The Walking Dead), his three-years live-in, actress-girlfriend, has finally broken out of the endless cycle of background work, student films, and infomericals with a well-reviewed role in a local stage production of Amadeus. And, to the immature chagrin of Jack: she’s a little bit too chummy with her “Mozart.” Why? Because, well, he’s a genius writer, after all: he’s her “Mozart” (but, in reality, he’s a “Salieri”).

Jack’s insecurities and Lisa’s ego (after one successful community theatre role, she pirouetting-grand entrancing across rooms) bursts across the living room of their L.A. bungalow as they hold a cocktail party with their friends (Maggie Q of the Divergent franchise, Live Free Die Hard, ABC-TV Designated Survivor, along with Danny Pudi of Star Trek Beyond, and a mature Tyler James Williams from Everybody Hates Chris) to celebrate the play’s success. And the party ends. And their friends leave. But the argument doesn’t end.

So, in a non-mystical “Groundhog Day” of their own making—a day where Jack is never wrong—they invite their friends over for another dinner party, under the guise of Jack apologizing for his behavior. But in reality: Jack and Lisa want to recreate the night to see where it went wrong—and who was wrong: Jack or Lisa. And Jack’s obsession for resolution bleeds over into his writing (the best part of the movie; the supporting cast of “actors” own their duality) where he holds a mock-casting (via Craigslist) and auditions actors in a cold read of a never-to-be-produced play based on “The Argument”—the one where Jack was “right.”

The Argument became available for VOD streaming and PPV on-demand from Gravitas Ventures (The Arrangement with Eric Roberts; the upcoming Jess Norvisgaard’s The Good Things Devils Do, and Chris Levine’s Anabolic Life and No Way Out; review coming for the latter on September 12th) in the U.S. on September 4.

* Be sure to visit our homage to the films and the acting majesty of Nicolas Cage with our “Nic Cage Bitch” featurette. We just love the guy!

Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.

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