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With: Dan Fogler, Emma Bell, Maggie Q, Danny Pudi, Tyler James Williams, Cleopatra Coleman, Karan Brar, Charlotte McKinney, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Marielle Scott, Mark Ryder
Written by: Zac Stanford
Directed by: Robert Schwartzman
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 81
Date: 09/04/2020

The Argument (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Debate & Switch

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Not all of the jokes land, and the meta-idea of this screwball comedy doesn't entirely hold water, but nevertheless, the breakneck pace and escalating madness of The Argument are still weirdly satisfying.

Writer Jack (Dan Fogler) decides to throw a cocktail party for his actor girlfriend Lisa (Emma Bell) to celebrate her role in a new play about Mozart, and also to propose to her. Jack's agent Brett (Danny Pudi) arrives with his partner Sarah (Maggie Q), a cynical lawyer with a photographic memory. Unexpectedly, Lisa's flirty co-star Paul (Tyler James Williams) also shows up, with a lady friend, Trina (Cleopatra Coleman), alongside.

Bourbon flows, jealousy rages, and things get awkward as Jack and Lisa begin to argue about the nature of a comment Lisa makes. That night, Jack and Lisa decide to invite everyone back to re-create the party and perhaps find out who's right. But it turns out one party isn't enough...

Coming in at just 81 minutes, The Argument covers quite a bit of ground, and fueled by bourbon and artistic temperaments, it cuts to the emotional center of things quite quickly. There's a great deal of running around, and the movie could have devolved into a high-pitched drawing-room comedy, but Fogler's shabby, down-to-earth presence keeps things grounded, even as he runs into the kitchen dozens of times to check on a pie that will inevitably end up on the floor. Likewise, Maggie Q gets the biggest laughs with her icy, snappish line readings, the antithesis of all the looniness around her.

On the downside, the idea of why these people would keep returning, night after night, for this crackpot experiment is difficult to buy. Plus, how can an out-of-work writer afford to buy a new $100 bottle of bourbon every night, not to mention the pies and the charcuterie platters? Also, the actors that show up for the next level of meta-ness are a bit on the cartoony side.

But part of the sly appeal of The Argument is that the characters, and the filmmakers themselves, would even try an idea this weird, when so many movies barely try at all.

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