I wrote extensively about the issues of diversity that have dominated this season of HBO’s Project Greenlight over on Uproxx today, but this is not that piece. This piece has nothing to do with race or diversity. It’s about a first-time director who refused to listen to his more experienced producer and who, as a result, made a spectacularly shitty film.
It’s called The Leisure Class. It debuts on HBO tonight. Don’t watch it.
The Leisure Class is awful, and if you’ve been watching Project Greenlight all season, it’s easy to pinpoint the reasons why. First and foremost, it was in the selection of a director who seemed to disdain the idea of a competition where he was given $3 million to make a film, a man by the name of Jason Mann who acted as though he was entitled to a $50 million budget and complete and total freedom to execute his exact vision.
If Jason Mann had been given exactly what he wanted, he’d still be shooting The Leisure Class today, and it would still be just as shitty as what appears onscreen.
Producer Effie Brown, on the other hand, knows what makes for a good movie, and that’s a well-told story with defined characters and some heart. Mann, on the other hand, prefers to sweat the small details to the detriment of his story: Why work on character motivations and gaping plot holes when there’s a shot that’s been underexposed? Why spend two more days on shooting the film when you can shoot on fancy, more expensive film instead of digitally (never mind that the viewer at home can’t tell the difference and doesn’t give a damn).
Make no mistake: The Leisure Class is a goddamn disaster. It’s a comedy of errors without any of the comedy. The characters spend 90-minutes delivering lines with enough comedic rhythm to give us the impression they are trying to be funny, but none of the words that come out of their mouth are actually humorous. The story make no sense. There are extraneous characters, terrible transitions, and a female lead whose personality turns on a dime for no apparent reason.
It’s garbage, and last night’s final installment of this season of Project Greenlight is the perfect encapsulation of why.
In the midst of the editing process, Jason Mann filtered out anything critical that anyone else said about his film and focused only on the bullshit compliments they offered to take the sting away. Matt Damon — in the nicest way possible — told Mann that his film was crap. Ben Affleck said that it just wasn’t for him. Members of a test audience fucking fell asleep. Effie Brown told him exactly what the biggest problem with his film was (the incoherent female lead) and the President of HBO — who gave Mann the money to make the film — confirmed it.
Did he take any of the criticisms to heart? Did he try and incorporate their notes? No! When Effie Brown informed him that she’d wisely saved a quarter of a million dollars for much needed reshoots, he expressed resentment that he wasn’t allowed to use that money to reshoot his car-crash sequence (in the context of the film, the car crash is bloody insignificant).
Then, once he got over his butthurt, he continued to ignore the pleas of others to reshoot a few scenes to improve the story and prioritized, instead, reshooting scenes where the lighting didn’t look right. WHO THE FUCK CARES ABOUT THE LIGHTING, BRO? Your film is shit, and beautiful cinematography is not going to save it.
So frustrated with Mann’s refusal to listen, Brown walked off the movie (or, at least, that’s the way the series edited it. In reality, she had completed her duties, and felt no obligation to stick around and watch Mann continue to fail). Moreover, the HBO President had to come in and demand a certain scene be shot, a lousy line of dialogue that he basically wrote himself that was nevertheless necessary to explain why a character chose to act in the way she did.
Each step of the way, Mann continued to insist on his bold, ambitious vision for his bold, original film. Yet, The Leisure Class is neither bold or original. It’s insipid and boring. The only thing it has going for it is the chemistry of Ed Weeks and Tom Bell, who brought that along with them as former comedy partners in England. Everything else about The Leisure Class not only makes you question the talent of Jason Mann, but his sanity. How could he possibly treat a TV movie that would’ve been rejected by the Lifetime network as though it were the next Rushmore? Is he that self-deluded? Mann treated Project Greenlight and Effie Brown like they were lucky to have him. In reality, Mann would be lucky to have Redbox stock his film in between 50 Shades and Hunger Games knock-offs.