Room For Rent isn’t quite the dark comedy it strives to be. Instead, in the same hunky-dory spirit as The Birder or Big News from Grand Rock, it’s another sample of funny people trapped within a flavourless Canadian comedy.
The film stars Mark Little and Brett Gelman, who each bring their own cult status charm to the film. Little is known for his absurd appearances in the sketch comedy troupe Picnicface, as well as his recurring role on CBC’s popular TV show Mr. D. As for Gelman, a comedian-turn-character actor, I refer to him as Netflix’s MVP (Stranger Things, LOVE, Like Father). With his signature devilish grin, Gelman can play a contemptible person all too well. As for Little, he does a good job playing an everyday schlub, and he finds his element playing Mitch – an enabled man-child and former millionaire. While the script and direction fails to provide a convincing dynamic for these two characters, the actors are able to play off each other effortlessly; reacting perfectly to whatever uncomfortable vibes the other person is laying down. Meanwhile, Mark McKinney and Stephnie Weir (playing Mitch’s parents) have a similar connection on screen – their characterizations are thin, but they’re experienced enough to forge forward.
Writer/director Matthew Atkinson, making his feature film debut, tries to make his movie “pop out” visually (Mitch’s narrow house is plastered in outdated wallpaper and harsh colourful lighting), but he doesn’t exactly pull any punches anywhere else within the movie. The film’s premise involves two sociopathic, deceptive men passive-aggressively squaring off against each other, but Atkinson has a hard time writing against his characters. As a writer, he confuses “likability” with “watchability”. Instead of making these characters detestable but interesting, he makes them soft so movie goers can still care for them.
The film may have some mild chuckles, but Room For Rent is too sympathetic to work.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie