Billy Crystal is an exceptionally gifted comedic actor.
Take his role alongside Meg Ryan in the 1989 romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally.
It is a movie that is so good; it captures the zeitgeist of the romantic 80s. And it is timeless enough to be correctly described as “the quintessential contemporary feel-good relationship movie that somehow still rings true.”
This is largely thanks to Billy Crystal.
Crystal is such an excellent raconteur and wordsmith that he is second to Bob Hope as the person who has hosted the Academy Awards the most number of times.
Crystal has done it nine times, and Bob “the king of comedy” Hope hosted the Academy Awards a record 19 times.
All told, Crystal’s rhetorical skill is so enthralling that he gave what I consider the best eulogy at Muhammad Ali’s funeral in 2016.
Over 15,000 persons were in attendance.
This speaking achievement becomes even more remarkable when one considers the roster of speakers, which included former US president Bill “the Big Dog” Clinton.
Crystal said of Ali, “Thirty-five years after he stopped fighting, [Ali was] still the champion of the world. He was a tremendous bolt of lightning created by Mother Nature. Muhammad Ali struck us in the middle of America’s darkest night and his intense light shone on America and we were able to see clearly.”
One might add, “See Crystal-clearly”.
So the movie Here Today can be forgiven for leaning heavily on Crystal’s unique charm, as it tackles, with levity, the impact of the degenerative disease called Dementia.
This disease makes the title of the film apt as it comes from the expression “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”, which is exactly what happens to a person’s mind as dementia slowly wipes away memory.
Crystal, who also co-wrote and directed this movie, stars as sketch comedy TV writer Charlie Burnz, a character even more legendary than Crystal himself.
Burnz is responsible for shaping US comedy over the last 40 years, having written 5 books, Broadway shows and movies such as “Call Me Anytime”.
Burnz’s body of work is so impressive that he is a little let down when he meets Emma Payge (Tiffany Haddish), and she doesn’t even know who he is!
I am not a Tiffany Haddish fan (or fun, if you like), but the comedienne’s chemistry with Crystal sharpens her wit to such a degree that she should be renamed “Tif-Funny”.
She and Crystal are far better together than her and Kevin Hart were in “Night School”.
There’s just an uncontrived, earthy connection between them which will bind viewers spell-like.
Also, the movie’s somewhat hidden message is worth mulling over as it half-states that we are all authors of our lives. But there’s not always a re-write to our individualized stories unless, of course, we are ready to author our rebirths.
Beyond that message, this movie is funny, even when Charlie’s doctor (Anna Deavere Smith) tells him, in Moses Golola’s feminized voice, that Dementia is no laughing subject.
Charlie realizes this as he, at one point, fails to recognize his own son Rex (PennBadgley).
Charlie’s daughter Francine (Broadway starLaura Benanti) blames him for her mother (LouisaKrause) and Charlie’s wife Carrie’s death.
Although the serious parts of this movie are supposed to be heartbreaking, we don’t get to know Rex and Francine enough to feel their pain.
As we see everything through Charlie’s eyes, the story arc is bent towards his character development, thereby narrowing Rex and Francine’s character formations.
Also, in tackling the hardware of Dementia while delving into the software of comedy writing, the movie hovers between Anthony Hopkins’s 2020 drama film The Fatherand the 2019 Emma Thompson’s comedy-drama Late Night,without being as sincere as the former or as refreshingly funny as the latter.
However, by the time its run time of 1h 57m is over, Crystal’s excellent one-liners and Haddish’s singing voice (yes, she sings) redeem Here Today to something that will be here tomorrow, too.