Dark comedy is hard to master. It’s not just there for laughs, but tries to give the audience a much deeper look at certain themes. And that’s a hard balance to keep. Lawrence & Holloman tries to maintain that balance, although it bends toward being more silly funny than it is dark.
Glen Holloman (Daniel Arnold) is miserable. He hates his life, no one notices him, he has no friends, and can’t get himself to ask the cashier Zooey (Katharine Isabelle) out on a date. Even his mother seems to find his presence to be a nuisance. He’s always unhappy, doesn’t know how to become happy, and feels like a basic inconvenience to life itself. And the quickest solution Holloman can think of to end his miserable life is by killing himself. No one would notice, after all.
But Holloman’s life is changed when he meets the eternal optimist Lawrence (Ben Cotton) in an elevator leaving the department store where they both work. Lawrence is high on life. He’s got everything going for him: a great job, confidence, and a wonderful relationship with his fiance Jill (Amy Matysio).
So Holloman befriends Lawrence… sort of. Lawrence kind of takes Holloman under his wing and starts giving him advice about how not to “get caught up in the details” or how not to “empathize with losers” in hopes of creating a more optimistic Holloman, even if he’s belittling the miserable man in the process of bestowing his infinite wisdom.
At first, Holloman hangs on Lawrence’s every word, but becomes bitter and aggravated towards him as time goes on. Lawrence is always happy. He has no negative thoughts whatsoever. How can he even be normal at this point? And then Lawrence’s luck seems to change. He loses his car, his job, breaks his leg and arm, and still somehow manages to keep a bright outlook on life despite of it, knowing he still has a friend in Holloman. After all, it’s all about perspective, right?
After watching the first few scenes of the movie, you immediately realize one thing: things aren’t going to end well for one of these characters. And that’s because Lawrence & Holloman’s dark comedic atmosphere immediately sucks you in. There are moments where you’ll find yourself laughing even if it’s inappropriate. Director Matthew Kowalchuck pulls off the comedic timing fairly well and some of the happenings in the film are so crazy and over-the-top, that it’s hard not to chuckle even when Lawrence is being hit by a car.
The film evaluates Holloman more so than Lawrence. Holloman we understand, while Lawrence is the plot device for Holloman’s eventual epiphany. Kowalchuck plays on the aspects of misery and bitter injustice that the world has dealt Holloman in a dark, yet semi-sympathetic way. He’s the person we’ve all felt like at some point in our lives, the guy who’s always down and watches while everyone else seems to be doing much better than him.
The lengths he goes through to understand and destroy Lawrence’s outlook on life are impressive. And even though it’s hard to agree with the means he tries to accomplish his goals, it’s clear why he does what he does. He hates Lawrence, but at the same time wants to be him. And so it’s an interesting, amusing, and very dark character study of Holloman’s psyche.
The movie is based on and adapted from the successful stage play of the same name. About three-quarters of the way through, the film becomes a little drawn out with its repetition of Lawrence’s bad luck, though. There’s just a little too much of it that could have been shaved off and still garnered the same impact in its finale without having to recycle some events. How many times do we have to see Lawrence’s misfortune before it gets a little old? There are also some issues that are touched on but never come full circle, like some of the things Holloman discusses with Zooey about his relationship with Lawrence, perspectives, and the like.
The performances are generally solid, however, regardless of Ben Cotton’s outrageous, over-the-top and sometimes obnoxious demeanor. Although that’s really the point in comparison with Daniel Arnold’s character. Arnold is nice, subdued, hating on life, and then does a complete turn-around and goes crazy with hatred and eventual realization. Of the two characters, Arnold’s definitely has more depth, while Cotton’s character is used more for comedic relief, but the two still manage to balance each other out in regards to their situation.
Lawrence & Holloman succeeds in using its dark comedy to its advantage. Though some aspects of Holloman’s growth as a character are dwindled to fit into the last ten to fifteen minutes of the film and that hinders it’s ultimate momentum, leaving the audience to perhaps want more out of Holloman’s revelation than what we’re given. More time is spent making a fool of Lawrence, even after that humor has tapered off. And while the film as a whole is generally entertaining, it’s a little underwhelming at times, and there are many ways in which its execution might still be better in its stage form.