It doesn’t really look or feel like these celebrities social distancing.
“Coastal Elites,” the new made-for-HBO political satire from writer Paul Rudnick and director Jay Roach, focuses on our current COVID-19 Hellhole and Donald Trump being the POTUS. It’s a social distancing anthology (titles featuring “Lock Me Up,” “Supergay,” “The Blonde Cloud,” “Because I Have to Tell Someone,” and “President Miriam”) that misses one opportunity after another.
For starters, if it wanted to spoof social-distancing, the cinematography should have made it look like a video chat. And for another thing, it should have had the actors zooming each other about a fake movie or show they’ve collaborated on. Instead you have Bette Midler, Dan Levy (“Schitt’s Creek”), Issa Rae, Sarah Paulson, and Kaitlyn Dever all looking like they’re in those interview clips barely convincing me they were social distancing. And I’m also thinking: they’re like the Peanuts gang talking to adults without the “wah wah” voice. This all so flimsy.
In “Lock Me Up,” Midler plays a woman being interrogated by the police for threatening a play-goer, and she contemplates on her life as a Jewish New Yorker, and how Donald Trump winning the presidential election practically killed her husband.
In “Supergay,” Levy plays a homosexual actor, who talks to his doctor about his roles on television when he mostly plays gay characters, and during the quarantine, has been auditioning for a major breakthrough role. He plans to portray the first openly-gay superhero, especially since he was able to find gay superheroes in comic books (like Green Lantern in a parallel universe, Fusion, or Iceman, for example). He spends the rest of the segment discussing about the negative responses towards gay people.
In “The Blonde Cloud,” Rae plays a woman who reluctantly joins her father on a trip to White House, and has a weird encounter with his daughter Ivanka. She just can’t stand her for being so needy and social distancing herself from history.
In “Because I Have to Tell Someone,” Paulson plays a meditation teacher, who tells her streamers how to keep their thoughts off COVID-19 and many other horrible events the world is going through, but she’s just as stressed and scared about it as much as we are. She tells them about how she dealt with it when word got out and visited her family.
And in “President Miriam,” Dever plays a young nurse talking about an ill patient named Miriam, who keeps her spirits going, even when more people are dying to this virus.
The most effective performances in “Coastal Elites” come from Levy with his speech on both gays in society and comic books, Rae with her views of Trump and his daughter, and Dever carrying the emotional weight; while Midler and Paulson, both otherwise fine talents, seem to be going through the motions. I never laughed once, because I have failed to see the levity inside this, but I was impressed with how the actors are poetic and open-minded in their own interesting ways.
I’ve been speaking with actors online like William Shatner or Christopher Lloyd, and those video chats are realistic compared to the chats here. Why did they have to look so HD? Was it to cater to an audience that demands 4K quality? Or was it because they needed to see the actors better? I hate to break it to you, but when you zoom, it’s not always clear. It’s just the way it is.
I’m not saying “Coastal Elites” is a bad movie; I’m saying it’s an uninspired one.
Available on HBO Max