I attended a recent Yelp event here in Indy, the kind of casual gathering meant to celebrate faithful Yelp Elites while also promoting new area businesses. I was chatting with friends, having a tremendous time when I look up to see the woman identified as the owner's wife as she handed out samples of their products.
I laughed. Out loud. I bellowed "Well, hello there!"
You guessed it. She was an ex-girlfriend. In fact, she was my longest relationship.
Talk about hilariously awkward.
I thought of her often while watching Uber Ex, an absolutely sublime 17-minute short directed by Matt Braunsdorf (Draftsville, John the Carpenter) and written by Jonathan Marballi about a couple, Kate (Paige Lindsay Betts) and David (Marballi), whose relationship is turned upside down when they discover that their post-engagement party Uber driver is Kate's old flame (Jeremy Michaels).
Set squarely in a world where technology has changed the rules of dating, Uber Ex is an absolute delight from beginning to end with a truly stand-out ensemble cast bringing to life a story that made me laugh frequently, made me tense up more than a little and, yeah, I'd dare say I may have even shed a tear.
All in 17 minutes.
Uber Ex is set for a digital release on Amazon Prime and Vimeo on Valentine's Day following a successful festival run that included prizes at Los Angeles Comedy Festival (Best Ensemble, Best Short Screenplay), Discover Film Awards (Best Actor, Marballi), Austin Revolution Film Festival (Director's Choice, Short Film - Comedy), and Cape Fear Independent Film Festival (Best Comedy).
It deserved them all and more.
This collaboration between Braunsdorf and Marballi brings back two creative spirits who met as performers and filmmakers at Upright Citizens Brigade in New York. If this is an example of what happens when these two get together? We need that to happen a whole lot more often.
Marballi (Thingstarter, Mr. Student Body President) is absolutely stellar here in serving up a guy who, if we're being honest, you think we're going to be laughing at here.
That doesn't happen.
Instead, Marballi's stellar script immerses itself in the humanity of these characters - having fun with them but never humiliating them. Marballi's David, in particular, is so hilariously and awesomely human that you absolutely fall in love with him well before the film's halfway mark and are devastated with the way things seem to be going for him. It's a tremendous performance, funny and sweet and serious and endearing and just everything you want it to be.
The same is true for the wonderful Paige Lindsay Betts (86'd), whose Kate has more than a few unresolved issues and who, at least initially, feels like a weird mismatch with David.
Until she doesn't. Then she does. Then she doesn't.
Yeah, it goes like that.
Betts is just awesome here, hilariously funny and real and transparent and just when you think you might end up hating her you end up loving her even more. Oh my god, I just loved this performance so, so much.
Jeremy Michaels (A Crime to Remember) may have the most challenging task of all in selling the smarmy, overly confident Lev in such a way that you never quite understand his angle until Braunsdorf and Marballi are ready to peel back the final layers of the film's story. Michaels succeeds gloriously, turning in a performance that feels sort of like a stoner Bradley Cooper with a sort of sassy sentimentality.
Watching these three together? It's inspired.
Jared Dymbort's original music gives the film a rather gentle, rhythmic spark, while Andy Bond's lensing is top notch throughout the film never missing a bit whether it's an extended comedy bit or a moment of quiet poignancy.
There's much to love about Uber Ex, an intelligent and incredibly funny short film that finds the lighthearted truth in the contemporary world of dating yet never forgets about the hilarious humanity of its characters. It's definitely a film you should sit down and watch this Valentine's Day.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic