- Eddie Harrison
- 25 August 2021
For the Edinburgh International Film Festival closing movie, Billy Crystal directs and stars in a dementia-themed odd-couple comedy alongside Tiffany Haddish that is an easy watch about a difficult subject
'This is no time for jokes,' exclaims an exasperated doctor attempting to provide a dementia diagnosis for comedy writer Charlie Burnz. Played by Billy Crystal (who also directs and co-writes with Alan Zweibel), Burnz has been a gag machine for decades, but is now facing up to a seriously uncertain future. Dementia comedy is a contradiction in terms and although Here Today pulls off a tricky odd-couple storyline, it still needs a few trigger warnings.
We first see Burnz strolling to work through the leafy majesty of Brooklyn Heights, a route he talks himself through to make it easier to remember. Although Burnz is a respected senior writer on a live sketch show, the spry grandfather knows that his memory is gradually failing, yet he's afraid to tell his family. Step forward industrial-strength ice-breaker Emma Payge (Tiffany Haddish), a singer who strikes up an unconventional (but non-sexual) relationship with Burnz, and inspires him to settle his issues with both the past and present.
An idiosyncratic but popular leading man since 1986's Running Scared, Crystal sees the potential for both levity and schmaltz in this scenario, and pushes through a roundly entertaining package. There's a mix of Neil Simon-type one-liners, songs from Haddish (including Janis Joplin's 'Piece Of My Heart' and Fats Waller's 'Your Feet's Too Big') and some pithy investigation of the television comedy scene. As with his recent, spikier vehicle Standing Up, Falling Down, Crystal leans hard into the easy-going comic persona that audiences expect. And while the result offers more than just jokes, his efforts to create final-act tension feel a little forced.
Here Today opens a few months after Anthony Hopkins carried off the Best Actor Oscar for the thematically similar The Father, but Crystal's rather more upbeat spin on this catastrophic condition should also appeal. With two winning performances at its heart, Here Today makes for an easy watch despite tackling a difficult subject for comedy.
Here Today, Filmhouse, Wednesday 25 August, 7pm, 7.15pm, 7.30pm, £10 (£5–£8); general release in cinemas from Friday 3 September.