At the film’s beginning, Harrelson’s Marcus is arrogant, combative, and every other cliche you’d expect for this kind of character. In 2023, it’s hard to see why we should want to spend two hours watching this guy, even with the signature charm Harrelson brings to every role he plays. His one-night-stand-turned-love-interest Alex (Kaitlin Olson) doesn’t fare much better with characterization, uttering abysmal lines like “I’m a woman over 40. I have needs.” But thankfully, Olson finds a few more layers within her performance than the character is granted on the page.
“I’m sorry, I’m new to this,” Marcus says to Alex after making a major gaffe asking how her brother Johnny (Kevin Iannucci) got his intellectual disability. To which she has to explain he was born with Down Syndrome, you don’t catch it. That’s the main presumption of the film: that everyone watching it is new to knowing anything about intellectual disabilities, and therefore it’s continually explaining their existence rather than allowing them to exist.
In an earlier scene, the rec center manager Julio (Cheech Marin) tells Marcus about the personal lives of the team. As his speech plays out over voiceover, we see little vignettes of their jobs and homes. However, the filmmakers never actually bother to spend any time with these characters as they live their lives. Instead, they show the audience their lives from an almost anthropological distance. The filmmakers see them solely as teaching tools for Marcus and the audience, not complex human beings worth spending real time with.
Yet, the script gives the burgeoning relationship between Marcus and Alex plenty of screentime. We watch it blossom from straight sex to dinner in restaurants to Marcus watching Alex perform Shakespeare at her job to Marcus eventually coming over to her and Johnny’s home for their mother’s cheesy meatloaf Monday.
This lack of respect for the humanity of these characters also comes at the expense of the dynamic cast playing the Friends—Madison Tevlin, Joshua Felder, Kevin Iannucci, Ashton Gunning, Matthew Von Der Ahe, Tom Sinclair, James Day Keith, Casey Metcalfe, and Bradley Edens—whose star power, charisma, and comic timing is wasted in pithy one-liners and dated jokes.