Film Review: “Ode to Joy”

ODE TO JOY
Starring:  Martin Freeman, Melissa Rauch and Jake Lacy
Directed by:  Jason Winer
Rated:  R
Running time:  1 hr 37 mins
IFC Films

We are an emotional people.  The simplest things can set us off.  A puppy can make us smile while a flat tire can make us curse.  Pretty normal.  Unless you’re Charlie (Freeman).  He is one of the people that the term “his emotions really got the best of him” was coined for.  Charlie has cataplexy, and when he feels happy he passes out, which can’t be good for his love life.

A funny and well written film, “Ode to Joy” begins with Charlie serving as Best Man at a friend’s wedding.  Despite trying to keep neutral thoughts, he smiles at his friend’s good fortune and drops like a stone.  Charlie is a librarian – a great job for anyone that doesn’t want to deal with any emotions, since you basically have to stay quiet in a library – and one day meets Francesca (Morena Baccarin), a beautiful woman who has just broken up with her boyfriend.  Intrigued my Charlie, she agrees to go out with him.

Being with Francesca is a good thing for Charlie…until, of course, it becomes a bad thing.  Down he goes again.

Inspired by a true story – yes, cataplexy is very real – from events in co-writer Chris Higgins’ life, “Ode to Joy” is held together by an amazing performance by Freeman.  It would be so easy to play Charlie as another bumbling fool looking for love, but Mr. Freeman gives the character an emotional edge – a true heart that makes your own ache for his problem.  Ms. Baccarin is both funny and beautiful, a deadly combination for anyone.  Supporting work by Melissa Rauch and Jake Lacy is also strong.  And it’s always nice to see Jane Curtin, who should have been declared a National Treasure years ago, on the big screen.

Director Winer, an Emmy winner and frequent producer/director on television’s “Modern Family,” brings a light touch to the material, treating the situation as seriously as possible while still maintaining an undercurrent of humor.  He keeps the story movingbut allows the viewer to pause, when necessary, to assess the situations at hand. 

As summer comes to a close, take a chance on “Ode to Joy.”  And try not to pass out! 

 
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