‘Curmudgeons’ is a short film directed by Danny DeVito, staring both himself (as Jackie) and his daughter Lucy DeVito (as Robin), which his son Danny DeVito co-produced. It also stars the recently departed David Marguilles (as Ralph), to whom the film is lovingly dedicated to.
This short is set in a nursing home. It opens with Robin visiting her father Ralph. She gives him a plant as a gift, then engages in conversation with him. A little wile later, Brant (Kett Turton) arrives with a ‘surprise’ for Ralph, with a visit from his father Jackie (an old friend).
In my eyes, this film perfectly captures the atmosphere within a nursing home. Now I know that this is partly because this is filmed within a real nursing home (the residents are thanked at the end of the credits), but although visually the setting was right, it was the tone of the piece that actually brought this notion to life. I have been in a couple of nursing homes when I was little (each year at Christmas whilst I was in the Brownies, I used to sing carols to elderly people unable to visit family), and for me, the interaction between Ralph and his nurse Daniela (played by Sarah Hayon) was beautifully realistic. Their brash, tongue in cheek dynamic reminds me of the relationship my mum and grandma have. They are always on at each other, telling each other what to do, picking up on each others faults, but loving each other unconditionally in their own hardened way – just like Ralph and Daniela (their generational/ethnic differences don’t stop these characters mutually respecting each other in spite of themselves). I find this extremely relatable and can connect with these characters instantly.
When I think of Danny DeVito, I either think of his character Frank in the comedy series ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ (an American comedy series running from 2005 – present), him in ‘Matilda’ (1996), or him in ‘Twins’ (1998), all tongue in cheek characters that you can’t help but love. He is definitely playing himself in this piece (or at least the Danny DeVito I’ve created in my head, as of course I have never met him). Nevertheless, this short has an undertone of sorrow which humanises his character, and brings another dimension to his gimmick film self. This edge/’surprise’, along with Jon Brion’s moving music, makes this piece very poignant.
The dialogue throughout the short is on point. I connected with the characters immediately, liked the setting, loved the music, and was moved by the twist. I discovered (whilst watching this) that David Marguilles who played Ralph had recently passed away, which made this piece even more touching. Furthermore, the morbid jokes, harsh family put downs and touching moments perfectly captures how realistic the family set up is. This 16 minute short is definitely one to watch.