“I think I left my oven on so I’m going to …”
Drinking problems are a serious matter. Alcoholics neglect their families, careers, and their own health as they walk through life in a haze towards their next glass. It’s hard to reach someone suffering from this disease without the cold hard truth. So you stage an intervention to facilitate your laying everything out. “This is how your actions affect me—him, her, and you.” The hope is that this bombardment of emotions and love can jolt someone out of his/her own head to take steps towards changing. Few people will do it for themselves, but it’s difficult to ignore the pain of those you care about. The target may react aggressively to try and recuse him/herself from the situation, but it all must be heard. It’s a powerful event.
So why not flip it on its head? Why not turn this serious ordeal with real life ramifications and built-in drama into a comedy? That’s exactly what writer Phoebe Torres and director Daniel Lofaso do with their short Gary from Accounting. They ask the question, “What happens when the wrong person is invited to an intervention?” How would this out-of-place character react to the heaviness of the situation and how would the evening’s subject handle his/her presence? It’s a premise ripe for introspection and an expansive look at the domino effect one person’s actions catalyze. Or it can be the darkly uncomfortable set-up to a light and absurd punch line—the reality of what’s accomplished here. This may not be the most empathetic approach, but it is funny.
The key is still treating the conceit with respect, something the actors do quite well. Nathan (Timothy J. Cox) is painted as an angry brute that may not physically abuse his family like his father did him, but sure does it verbally. His wife Hannah (Thea McCartan) and sister Belle (Jake Lipman) barely hold back tears out of assertiveness—they know this is their final step before contemplating whether or not to simply walk away. And these portrayals are retained pretty much right through the end. The women play everything straight and Nathan deals with his moment of clarity as one would hope. The change in tone doesn’t therefore belittle the circumstance as much as subvert it. Only one detail isn’t “real”: the speech that shakes Nathan awake.
This is of course because Gary (Mark Grenier) isn’t best friend from high school Gary. He’s Gary from accounting. It’s comedic gold because they aren’t really close. So while Nathan misses his kid’s baseball game and neglects his wife’s feelings, how’s he destroying Gary’s life? Well, you’d be surprised what someone can come up with when placed on the spot. This party crasher isn’t initially quick on his feet, but he certainly warms up to it once it clicks just how much ten minutes means to his psychological wellbeing. It’s a goofy direction to go, but it gets the point that Torres and Loraso wants across. What begins melodramatically ends as a gag—an effective laugh that cable companies should crib and use to advertise their DVR services.