Here Today, directed and written by Billy Crystal, is a potent drama with great performances across the board. It also happens to be a hilarious movie about two strangers whose chance encounter changes them both forever. Crystal plays opposite Tiffany Haddish, with the undeniable strength of this duo being one of the most surprising match-ups I’ve seen so far this year.
When Charlie (Billy Crystal), a famous comedian, meets Emma (Tiffany Haddish), an energetic street performer, the two click almost instantly. Their touching friendship starts from a purely platonic level, punctuated by a first lunch date where Emma orders seafood and her entire face swells up in comical fashion. Charlie has faith in a struggling young writer (Andrew Durand) at his comedy sketch show, a perfect indicator that Charlie’s heart is always in the right place. However, his relationship with his two children (Penn Badgley, Laura Benanti) is less ideal. While both Charlie and Emma are in different places of their life, an age gap isn’t enough to diminish their connection. It seems that Emma has come into his life just when she needs him the most, as Charlie begins to suffer from the tragic realities of dementia.
Both Tiffany Haddish and Billy Crystal give career-defining dramatic performances. Haddish in particular really impressed me, mainly because I know her from comedies. She still does get to stretch her comedic muscles here—an early scene where she claims her moves in bed are Cirque du Soleil, she would break Charlie’s back, and he would die “on top of me” had me laughing so hard—but this film shows an aching and honest turn from the performer. As Tiffany is on the cusp of going on a four-month tour with her band, Charlie’s worsening condition draws compassion. She will truly do anything she can for him, going above and beyond to help him realize a vision for the book he’s writing and step in when his condition requires it the most. A vibrant bar mitzvah sequence puts Haddish’s talent on public display.
Billy Crystal carries much of the emotional heft. As Charlie’s conditions progresses, he starts deteriorating mentally. It’s small things at first, like forgetting what locker he was using or to RSVP for his daughter’s bar mitzvah. Soon, his condition starts awkwardly invading his personal life. Charlie forgets Sharon Stone’s name when he’s on stage with her. He breaks down in the middle of a street because construction is obstructing his usual walking path to work, confusing and upsetting him. Each tragic reminder of the dementia is played to vulnerable perfection by Billy Crystal. By the time we get to his story about a beautiful, but mysterious painting, Crystal hits you right in the heart.
The first half is more playful and witty, while the latter part is emotional and upsetting. An embrace late in the film between Charlie and Tiffany brought me to tears; Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish are an unexpected but brilliant pairing. Their chemistry is off the charts. The strength of their relationship is weaved into the incredible script from Crystal and co-writer Alan Zweibel, who also wrote the short story. Here Today reminds us that it is okay to ask for help, and sometimes, that help can come from most unexpected sources.
Here Today comes to theaters on Friday, May 7th.