About two years ago, I found myself scrolling through Netflix offerings, looking for a comedy — any comedy. If you’re familiar with the streaming service, you know how difficult it can be to sort through its barrage of vaguely recognizable movies buried under the wrong category titles. I landed on one called For a Good Time, Call …, directed by Jamie Travis and written by Katie Anne Naylon and Lauren Miller Rogen. Its premise: two frenemies moving in together to start a phone sex hotline. “OK, fine,” I thought. At least it might be National Lampoon’s level of dumb. About 20 minutes in, I realized I was watching a nuanced, thoughtful portrayal of female friendship that transcended its schlocky premise with crisp dialogue and sense of realism often missing in indie comedies: I believed these characters deeply cared for one another.
Fast forward to now, as I’m watching the new Netflix release, Like Father, starring Kelsey Grammer as Harry and Kristen Bell as Rachel, an estranged father
Grammer hasn’t embodied his character Frasier Crane in 14 years, and yet it’s still something of a shock to see him play against that type. Here, he takes the form of a good-natured, wincing, soft-spoken bachelor. In cinematographer Seamus Tierney’s lighting, the crow’s feet around Grammer’s eyes are pronounced, charming. (Tierney’s work here is startling fine, with careful compositions that play with the natural light of the open ocean.) Miller Rogen shows Harry flaws and all, both visually and in her writing.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Harry left Rachel and her mom when Rachel was only 5. As the title suggests, Rachel has become the same kind of distant workaholic her father was, but Miller Rogen doesn’t throw that in our faces. Each character possesses a depth of dimensions to prevent a simplistic plot of mirroring.
What’s most striking is that Miller Rogen
Here, Bell, who straddled the comic and dramatic so memorably in Veronica Mars, feeds off Grammer’s subdued performance. At one point, Rachel loses her temper and bursts into tears while her voice breaks, and I realized how seldom Bell is allowed to stretch into dramatic roles. These are two phenomenal performers giving their all to a sharp family drama disguised as an outrageous cookie-cutter comedy. I had no idea how much Like Father was something I needed.
Like Father premieres August 3 on Netflix