Edinburgh Film Festival review: Here Today

Billy Crystal’s comedy about a terminally ill comedian might have worked had the jokes been better, writes Alistair Harkness

Tiffany Haddish and Billy Crystal star in Here Today, the closing film of the 2021 Edinburgh International Film Festival

Here Today **

Directed by Billy Crystal

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Starring: Billy Crystal, Tiffany Haddish, Penn Badgley, Laura Benanti

“It’s the perfect time for jokes!” protests Billy Crystal’s Charlie Burnz late on in Here Today. As a semi-famous comedy writer on the receiving end of a terminal illness diagnosis (he has a rare form of dementia), Charlie processes bad news through humour and won’t tolerate a doctor instructing him to be serious when his brain is already starting to destroy his sense of self.

That’s an interesting concept for a comedy about comedy and it’s a subject about which Crystal – who co-wrote and directed the film – has first-hand experience (he was a close friend of Robin Williams, who ended his life tragically after being diagnosed with a similarly aggressive form of dementia). But Crystal is also an old-fashioned showbiz guy at heart and Here Today is much more interested in approaching its subject via a lachrymose buddy comedy about making the most of the time you have left.

Pairing himself up with Tiffany Haddish – cast here as a nightclub singer called Emma Payge – his character bonds with Emma over a shellfish mishap that lands her in the hospital and him footing the bill.

Gross-out meet-cute duly established, their friendship soon grows, albeit in one direction only as we learn everything about him and almost nothing about her. Which might not have been so bad had their schtick been funny, but it’s pretty cringeworthy, devolving in the final stages into mushy sentimentality. Jokes would have been appreciated.

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