Of all the possible avenues to travel in order to reach a premature death, becoming left-handed after years of a right-handed life seems like a fairly unlike route. But when Mel Cobb, a sad shlep of a middle-aged man with a dead-end existence, hears about a medical study that found left-handed people die earlier than right-handed folks, he decides to go lefty as a means to his end.
This is the basic premise of “Lefty-Right,” a no-budget production which tries to stretch one not-very-funny idea into a 50 minute film which has roughly two minutes of uproarious humor. However, filmmaker Ræ McGrath can’t really take credit for those hilarious two minutes: they belong to a clip from a rerun of “The Honeymooners” which plays on a television in one scene (thank you, Mr. Gleason!).
“Lefty-Right” goes to clumsy extremes to exaggerate the misery of Mel Cobb’s world. His home is a tiny apartment with wall-to-wall clutter, his job is a ridiculous telemarketing assignment for a start-up newspaper celebrating municipal bridge and tunnel construction workers in New York, and his evenings are punctuated every midnight by an unidentified caller who cuts him off every time he tries to complete a sentence. Is anyone amused yet?
In presenting this unlikely tale, the film tries to emulate the visual and emotional feel of David Lynch’s “Eraserhead,” complete with stark black-and-white cinematography. But whereas “Eraserhead” took its characters’ despair to wonderfully bizarre new worlds, “Lefty-Right” is more of a lame ha-ha rather than a full-blown roar of satire or surrealism.
It also does not help that William Brown makes the character of Mel Cobb so thoroughly obnoxious that any possible humor (let alone pathos) is diluted, leaving the audience cold at the spectacle of this strange little man with a silly plan to kill himself by being left-handed. Admittedly the screenplay gives him little to work with, but the actor’s presence is as creepy and monochromatic as the cinematography…you don’t care about his fate, and that is not the mindframe to have for the center of a film.