The Sitter - SideReel Review
There are great songwriters who come up with the melody first, then fill in the meter with nonsense words until they get around to finishing the song. David Gordon Green’s The Sitter feels like the first draft of a movie in which the filmmakers sketched out the order of the scenes, but never bothered to go back and fill in dialogue or character development.
Jonah Hill stars as Noah Griffith, a twentysomething slacker who can’t even get Marisa (Ari Graynor), the woman he’s lusting after, to respond to his sexual advances. He lives with his divorced mom, who is frustrated one night when her promising date nearly falls through after another couple’s babysitter cancels. Noah is guilt-tripped into taking on the responsibility himself, but the kids turn out to be a handful. His charges include deeply closeted 13-year-old Slater (Max Records), seven-year-old Kardashian wannabe Blithe (Landry Bender), and firecracker-wielding hellion Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez). When Marisa calls Noah and promises to sleep with him if he brings her cocaine, the irresponsible sitter loads the kids up into the car and drives them into the city. Along the way, the foursome must deal with a psychotic drug dealer (Sam Rockwell), car thieves, and Noah’s absent father.
Remaking Adventures in Babysitting as a hard-R-rated comedy isn’t a terrible idea on its face, but the feeble script by first-time movie scribes Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka is so abysmally underdeveloped that the movie annoys us exactly for what it is, not because it’s a pale retread of an old favorite. On top of that, the movie doesn’t go nearly far enough to offend or unsettle us. If they aren’t going to bother to construct jokes, they should at least try to shock us into laughing.
Not one of the poorly constructed scenes builds to a laugh; every exchange just peters out with poorly improvised dialogue. Aside from the most-basic lip service paid to the characters needing to grow up, none of the four survives a situation where they get to build up the self-esteem we’re supposed to believe they possess by the end of their big night. The movie just limps along with pedestrian direction from Green that has none of the spark of either his early indie successes like All the Real Girls or his studio comedies like Pineapple Express.
There is one respite from all the laziness: a first-rate conversation between Noah and Slater when the latter starts to come to terms with his homosexuality. It’s a tender, well-acted moment that comes just about halfway through the movie. It’s so good, and so unlike everything else that came before it, you begin to expect something from the back half of the film, but those hopes are quickly dashed.
Released without being shown to critics ahead of time, The Sitter will probably disappear without doing too much damage to the reputations of anyone involved. The only ones who will be injured are the people who pay to see it.