First things first: Lea Thompson is a national comedic treasure. True, it’s still decades too soon to compare her career to Betty White’s, but that degree of unequivocal admiration is almost certainly in her future (or ought to be, in a fair and just universe). Here’s hoping her latest title, The Year of Spectacular Men, will help to remind audiences of her untiring congeniality even while the film serves mostly as an introduction to the next generation of talented young actresses.
In her directorial debut, Thompson directs her daughters, Madelyn and Zoey Deutch, from a script written by Madelyn. The Year of Spectacular Men tells an endearingly familiar coming-of-age story with more heart than profundity, but the film nonetheless captures plenty of meaningful moments. Madelyn plays Izzy, an aimless-ish recent college graduate and older sister to Zoey’s Sabrina, a famous actress reluctantly entangled in a studio-spun tabloid love triangle. As Izzy struggles to figure out a purpose in life, her famous little sister provides a source of comfort and cheer.
Thompson also appears on-camera, naturally playing Izzy and Sabrina’s mother, Deb. Though Thompson’s scenes as Deb are brief, Madelyn’s quippy style of dialogue is perfectly suited for both her mother and sister, and it comes as little surprise to discover the three have an easy (and expectedly loving) onscreen rapport. Thompson brings all the warmth and charm audiences would expect, and both Madelyn and Zoey shine in their more emotionally demanding roles.
As the titular men, Jesse Bradford, Cameron Monaghan, Brandon T. Jackson, Zach Roerig, and Nicholas Braun each appear in succession and exist as chapter markers and commentators to the story. However, Izzy’s romantic adventures function mainly as the film’s framing device: despite the title, the most spectacular aspect of this year in Izzy’s life is actually Izzy’s unfailing bond with her sister. Sabrina’s unwavering encouragement keeps both Izzy and the narrative on track, and ultimately it is Sabrina’s insight that helps to guide Izzy toward her purpose.
The Year of Spectacular Men provides a perfectly pleasant, heartfelt look at the bond between sisters and between a mother and her daughters. Tailor-made for the Girls and Gilmore Girls crowd, the movie delivers everything it promises with just enough flair to suggest bigger things to come from the Deutch sisters and just enough craft to ensure Thompson will be back behind the camera again soon.