Here’s a fun thought experiment: How much does watching an entire season of HBO’s “Project Greenlight,” which chronicles the making of a movie, alter your viewing of the movie itself — in this case Jason Mann’s “The Leisure Class”? And aside from viewers of the show in desperate need of some sort of closure, who would be interested in watching said movie?
More questions: Do you find yourself noticing that some shots in a scene were filmed at a different time of day than others, something that might have gone unnoticed if the making-of series hadn’t made such a big deal out of it? (Yes.) Are you counting all of the background actors of color in the rehearsal-dinner scene since, during the show, producer Effie T. Brown complained about there being “no black people” in the scene? (Probably.) Would you have any trouble believing this took place in Connecticut or that the mansion was old enough if Mann hadn’t griped about it so much during pre-production? (Probably not.) And finally, do you as a viewer care that it was shot on film?
It is difficult to separate “The Leisure Class” from “Project Greenlight,” and that’s probably to the film’s benefit, since it can’t stand up on its own. It’s a farce that’s not particularly farcical, a dark comedy with little humor, a screwball caper that wants to suggest great films of yesteryear without giving its own plotting and details the attention they need to work in that style. Everything feels undercooked, almost there, with neither the humor nor the drama rising to the levels necessary to be engaging.
For those who haven’t kept up with “Project Greenlight,” the film centers on Charles (Ed Weeks), a charming Brit who, after a very brief courtship, is on the cusp of marrying a senator’s daughter (Fiona Regan) with political aspirations of her own. But then his loose-cannon brother Leonard (Tom Bell) arrives the night before the wedding to cause mayhem and risk revealing Charles’ secret: That he’s actually William, not Charles, and the whole marriage is a scam to set him up for life.
In a more interesting version of this movie, we’d see more of William-Charles’ set-up and deceit — and hopefully find something endearing about him in the process — so that we’d be somehow invested when he gets caught. But in a better made version of this story we’d also be given a reason to care about any of the characters outside of surface descriptions and the actors’ own charisma.
With not much to care about on-screen, the viewer is left thinking about the machinations of “Project Greenlight,” second-guessing the choices in the editing, performances and direction — and the particularly uninspired camera work. The most interesting thing about “The Leisure Class” is how it was made, and that’s not interesting enough.
“The Leisure Class” premieres Monday at 10 p.m. on HBO