The cutthroat competitive world of Manhattan’s private kindergartens is a solid topic for satire, and director Josh Shelov has assembled a couple of notable indie favorites in his attempt to take shots at the worthy target. But he’s not all that well armed: The Best and the Brightest is amusing at times but never more than a modest diversion, lacking the cleverness and imagination required to turn it into more than a one-joke movie.
The film stars Neil Patrick Harris and Bonnie Somerville as a bright-eyed couple from Delaware who move to the big city because — well, actually that part isn’t really clear. Sam (Somerville) seems to think living in a cramped, ugly apartment underground in Manhattan equates to “making it,” although she doesn’t seem to work at anything in particular, and clean-cut hubby Jeff has some sort of computer coding job that is the antithesis of exciting. They’re hardly contenders for Page Six or even a good table at a semi-decent restaurant. Hayseeds that they are — I had no idea Delaware was so backward — they are startled to learn that people in New York can be rude and even more shocked when they realize that to get their 5-year-old daughter into a decent private school, they would have needed to apply for admittance shortly after her conception.Desperate, Sam hires demented kindergarten consultant Sue Lemon (the hilarious Amy Sedaris) to grease their path to the elite Coventry Day School, and before you can say “I won a high-school literary contest,” Sue pushes Jeff to pose as an edgy, soon-to-be-published poet to curry trendy favor with a tough headmistress (Jenna Stern) and a pervy board member (Christopher McDonald) known as The Player. Jeff, of course, is not a poet and has to use filthy text messages his randy old college buddy (Peter Serafinowicz) has fired off to stand in as his “work.”The movie’s humor is a variation on this theme, that modern poetry is pretentious, and that hip, shallow people are stupid enough to believe anything is art. Fair enough, but the joke starts to grow tiresome right around the time The Player urges Jeff out for a night at a sex club, and Sam finally realizes the lengths to which she has pushed him, all for the sake of keeping her kid out of public school. Fortunately, Sedaris’ manic energy keeps the movie interesting, and Harris plays along gamely, although if you’ve seen him inDr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog
you will wish they had given him more to do than play backdrop to the less-than-inspired lunacy of others.
Neil Patrick Harris, Bonnie Somerville, Amy Sedaris, Peter Serafinowicz, Christopher McDonald, Kate Mulgrew.
Director: Josh Shelov.
Screenwriters: Josh Shelov, Michael Jaeger.
Producers Nicholas Simon, Patricia Weiser, Robert Weiser.
Running time: 93 minutes. Language, sexual content. Playing in Miami-Dade only: Coral Gables Arts Cinema.