"Here Today" is a film that can be quite maddening at times.
This comedy/drama with the unlikely pairing of Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish has plenty of flaws and several cringe-worthy moments. Yet, the film works largely due to its two leads and a few genuine moments that almost make it feel like you are watching a completely different movie.
In "Here Today" Crystal, who also directed and co-wrote with Alan Zweibel, plays Charlie Burnz a veteran comedy writer working on a "Saturday Night Live"-type sketch show.
Charlie goes to lunch one day with a fan, as part of a charity auction, but instead of the fan he meets Emma Payge (Tiffany Haddish). She is the ex-girlfriend of the winner of the lunch, taking his prize as revenge.
The lunch ends with Emma in the emergency room after having an allergic reaction to shellfish (one of the bits that really doesn't work), but Charlie and Emma stay in touch and develop a friendship.
Charlie learns that Emma is a street singer with dreams of a bigger stage. Emma learns that Charlie is still grieving the tragic death of his wife from years earlier and is estranged from his two children.
She also discovers a secret that Charlie has been hiding for some time. It turns out he is suffering from early stages of dementia, able to cover it up to an extent.
But when Charlie starts to lose some of that control, and his world starts to crumble, Emma provides the support he needs - helping Charlie reconnect with his family and face his failing health.
"Here Today" is certainly ambitious - tackling a lot of dramatic elements in a two-hour movie. A lot of moments just don't connect the way that Crystal likely envisioned (it also doesn't help that the film comes on the heels of the Oscar winning "The Father").
Yet every time "Here Today" feels like it is teetering on the edge there are scenes of such profound emotional impact that you can't help but be drawn back in.
I really enjoyed scenes with Charlie working with a young comedy writer on the show looking to find his voice. And the flashbacks with his wife (Louisa Krouse) framed where the audience sees the action from Charlie's point of view are quite touching.
And then there is Crystal and Haddish, who have surprisingly strong chemistry. They make you believe this pair would develop an unlikely friendship with Haddish showing she can be quite good when asked to dial it down a bit.
I wish Crystal and Haddish had a little bit better material to work with, but they manage to make the most of what they have in "Here Today" - giving this film the spark it needs to overcome all of its glaring problems.