What if Clerks was about two Millennial nerds who were slacking at their soulless corporate jobs instead of two Gen-Xers in a convenience store? In Eli Batalion’s Appiness, the main characters map directly over: Randall becomes Raj (Varun Saranga), Dante is Eric (Eli Batalion), and Veronica is Jeanine (Amber Godfarb).
To be fair, the formula of one character who is reluctant, one who incites, and a woman to be won over in the end, is an age-old one. It has been applied to many genres, comedies included, since time immemorial. However, it’s Clerks that is closest to the smart-a*s vibe of Appiness. But also think Risky Business, Stripes, Revenge of the Nerds, Night Shift, and so on.
Eric and Raj are old high school classmates who find themselves on the cusp of new life adventures when they both become unemployed. Eric is unceremoniously downsized from a corporate job he hates and bumps into Raj when he’s drowning his troubles at a bar.
“They decide to pursue the newest default get-rich-quick notion and build an app.”
They decide to pursue the newest default get-rich-quick notion and build an app. This is their new dream; never mind that the days of building a killer app out of a garage have passed us by. Even their aspirations are lazy. Once a new idea has minted a couple of billionaires, it’s no longer fresh, and every copycat fails in their wake. Cliches don’t pay.
They fail to raise the venture capital because Eric has alienated the female investor with his coffee shop awkwardness. But the money has to come from somewhere, so Raj gets them tangled up with some Russian “investors.” All the while, Eric’s unlikely relationship with Jeanine at first seems like a distraction, but she soon enough becomes his source of confidence.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so being recognized as an update on Clerks is not a net negative for this film. In fact, Batalion pulls it off with style, wit, and the right balance of brash crudeness and sensitivity. Archetypes from 1994 suburban New Jersey are updated for the internet culture, and this all works surprisingly well.
Appiness is fluffy and starts slow. As mentioned, we’ve seen these characters before, but soon enough, a rhythm is established, and we begin to care about their antics, despite them being broadly drawn and unrealistic. They are close enough to people as to be relatable, and if you’ve seen enough films in the “hey kids, let’s turn this old barn into a theater” mode, then it’s a familiar and comfortable narrative. The pleasure of Appiness is a guilty one, but ultimately diverting and worth your time.
"…Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"