Review by Sean Boelman
Starring one of the most extraordinary stars of yesterday with some of the most exciting new talents of tomorrow, Katie Aselton’s Mack & Rita should have been, at the very least, a lovely little older-skewing comedy. Unfortunately, in its cloying attempts to pander to audiences both young and old, it manages to be both painfully unfunny and almost unwatchably dispassionate.
The film follows a thirty-year-old writer who, dissatisfied with her life, spends a wild weekend in Palm Springs and finds herself transformed into her seventy-year-old self. What seems like it should be Freaky Friday on steroids instead ends up being yet another excuse for a millennial character to vent about how bad she has it until she realizes that things might not actually be all that bad.
Some of the movie’s shortcomings likely could have been forgiven if there were some substance to its themes. While the overall message of living life in the moment is nice and wholesome, the fact that this is the entirety of the film’s message makes it generally insufficient. There are some parts which seem like they are on the edge of doing something interesting by skewering influencer culture only to fall flat.
The jokes in the movie generally aim for the lowest common denominator — pretty much what you would expect from a body swap comedy like this. It’s a bunch of Diane Keaton doing things that a woman Diane Keaton’s age shouldn’t be doing. Are these “antics” particularly funny? Not at all.
The film also suffers from generally insufferable characters. The younger version of the protagonist is developed primarily through her friendships, while the older version is developed mostly through an age-gap romance. The latter is a particularly bizarre choice on the part of writers Madeline Walter and Paul Welsh, and it does not pay off.
Keaton absolutely phones it in with her role, but with a filmography like hers, you could say she’s earned it. But the bigger problem is that she does not try to adapt to Elizabeth Lail’s younger performance of the character, nor does Lail really attempt to emulate Keaton’s personality. They are just woefully mismatched.
Even more damning is the fact that the movie completely wastes its talented supporting cast. Taylour Paige plays the protagonist’s best friend and isn’t even able to be an amusing sidekick. Simon Rex gets a couple of scenes as the wacky character. Lois Smith is also just sort-of… there.
Mack & Rita is an utterly embarrassing waste of talent of all involved. It’s a simple enough premise that it should have been a crowd-pleaser, but the issue is that no one did anything beyond the bare minimum here.
Mack & Rita hits theaters on August 12.
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