Buddy Solitaire

Buddy Solitaire is a touching comedy that comes to us as part of the 2016 Newport Beach Film Festival. Buddy is a stand-up comedian on his last leg and desperately needs to find new material. His life is falling apart with a neglected girlfriend and an unhealthy relationship with his mother.

2016 Newport Beach Film Festival
Keung Lee
Director: Keung Lee
Cast: Brandon J. Somberger, Sally Kirkland, Leann Lei, Mirela Burke, Garret Sato, Samba Schutte, Jason McBeth

Buddy Solitaire (Brandon J. Somberger) is a stand-up comedian who is at a crossroads in his professional career. This burnt out comedian thinks he can spark his creativity by teaching stand-up comedy at a counseling center where his girlfriend, works.

After his first day of teaching comedy to the center’s therapy group, Buddy finds new material in the members of the group. Almost immediately, the details of each member’s problem become an integral part of Buddy’s stand-up. But as time progresses, Buddy begins to develop a real relationship with each person.

Buddy Solitaire is clearly an independent film. Sometimes the lack of money can come across on screen and can pull you out of the film. This includes an audio hum early in the film and the use of the same room to appear to be several different comedy clubs. Harmless, but then that is the appeal of independent films.

What Buddy Solitaire loses in a low budget film, it makes up for in a solid story of redemption. Yes, there are comic elements with Buddy as he teaches a group of counseling patients how to be a stand-up. The real joy of the film is Buddy’s relationship with his mother. Sally Kirkland is brilliant as a former stand-up from an era long ago. She is clinging desperately to the fame she once had and at the same time, finds her only comfort in the son she consistently abuses mentally and emotionally. This relationship is a classic codependent spiral that mothers and sons usually come out incredibly damaged.

I had only a few issues with Buddy Solitaire. Some elements of the stand-up comedy did not ring true for me. As mentioned earlier, Buddy volunteers at his girlfriend’s job at the counseling center. He hopes that his interactions with the clients will inspire new material, and it does. But the jokes he tells about the clients are not necessarily that funny and may not inspire the brilliance that is now attributed to Buddy.

Aside from that, the acting, primarily from the leads, is good. Brandon J. Somberger is strong as the title character, Buddy Solitaire. His stand-up delivery is good, he brings the right emotion to scenes with his mother and he carries the movie. Writer/Director Keung Lee does a masterful job with his first film. He manages to tell a touching tale with comedy and produce a film the feels professional without giving away the low budget he had.

7 out of 10 stars

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