If you have basic cable, you’ve surely stumbled across the marathon of saccharine Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel. Chances are, they have cast their doe-eyed spell over a member of your family, and you’ve absorbed some holiday shrapnel. Madness, Farewell is what would happen if a Hallmark director accidentally drove over his dog on the way to work. There’s young love, laughs, and a strong Yuletide atmosphere, but it’s all been drenched in the Christmas party fondue of melancholy.
No dogs were harmed in the making of this movie—that I know of—but, instead, the melancholy is derived from the suicidal thoughts of Liza (Charlene deGuzman), a former stand-up who now wants to lay down. Unsure of how to go about it, she starts taking suggestions from social media. One response comes from a business that specializes in suicide—they’re like the Walmart version of Jack Kevorkian. Big suicide, driving out all the mom-and-pop establishments. Anyway, she pays them a visit and makes the arrangements for her death.
“…she pays them a visit and makes the arrangements for her death.”
They tell Liza to be in a specific room at a specific hotel, but when she shows up, she discovers that they’ve double-booked the room. Instead of complaining to management, Liza and Gus (Benjamin Font), united by their desire to do themselves in, form a bond that transcends passion and goes straight to dependence.
Like the double-booked suicide room, Benjamin Font, writer and director, works in a number of small, but clever jokes that refrain from drawing attention to themselves. Another involves a bowling ball that the characters hold onto for a tad too long until you reach the punchline and realize you had breezed past the set-up without knowing it. The dialogue doesn’t quite hold up to these conceptual gags, because it gets mired in that lo-fi, awkward banter that might have seemed original twenty-five years ago, but has grown tiresome.
This extends into the existential outpouring that occurs between Liza and Gus. As two suicidal people are wont to do, they become loquacious with one another, speaking of such lofty topics as life, death and the meaning therein. As with everyone else in the 200,000 years of human existence, Liza and Gus find these questions to be a tightly-wound knot that can only be picked at fruitlessly. While the two leads are convincing enough, the characterization falls short of leaving an impression. Both characters blend into the background and become moving parts in the story, as opposed to the story’s driving force.
“If you’re almost thirty and have nothing to show for it…an excellent companion to your Christmas blues…”
On the other hand, the manager of the suicide business, played by Brandon Keener, warrants your attention from the moment he appears. With his two dysfunctional arms, he’s a great blend of the smarmy, door-to-door salesman and the high-school guidance counselor who forged his resume.
If you’re almost thirty and have nothing to show for it, to paraphrase Gus, Madness, Farewell could make for an excellent companion to your Christmas blues. It’s not light enough to put on for the whole family, and it’s not dark enough to really uncover some tucked-away truths, but there are some wayward smiles to be had. Think of it like a snowball fight using only yellow snow.
Madness, Farewell (2018) Directed by Benjamin Font. Written by Benjamin Font. Starring Charlene deGuzman, Benjamin Font, Brandon Keener, Noah Applebaum, Nick Smoke.
6 out of 10 stars