THE D TRAIN Review | Sundance 2015

     January 27, 2015

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First time directors Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul tackle the overwhelming struggles of a regular guy trying to reach his dream of the perfect high school reunion in The D Train. The films dry comedic tone allows for a variety of subject matters from sexuality and success, to the “every man’s” desire to make their dreams come true, and failing on the way.

Mogel and Paul’s story is somewhat standard, there are two seemingly different characters coming together over a 20 year college reunion and finding a bond. What makes this film different, is a very modern perspective on self acceptance of all kinds. The film follows “Dan Landsman” (played by Jack Black), who has a job with little excitement and the one thing he has to look forward to is being the chairman for his high school reunion. Unfortunately, no one but him seems to share the same gusto. That is until he decides to try and get the classes biggest star to attend, Oliver Lawless (played by James Marsden), who everyone is in envy of for being an LA actor whose biggest role is a Banana Boat ad.

The film takes an interesting look at fame and more importantly desire from differing perspectives. For our lead, his need to be “famous” within his own life, quickly leads him on a downward spiral that he’s unable to control. Ironically enough, it’s the unsuccessful LA actor who seems to have accepted his own status, and make the best of his current situation, be it often at the expense of others. There is no winning on either side.

The film, which always is having a bit of fun playing with stereotypes (and at times the film jokes may be little too “inside baseball”), ultimately, does do a great job at depicting success, and how so many people waste their lives trying to compare themselves to others.  The idea of “success” can drive anyone to extreme situations, some amazing and some harmful.

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Jack Black has been continually showing that he has more than just comedic chops to exploit, and a desire to delve into the dark. He’s incredibly bold in his choice to play an extremely unlikeable character, who you eventually, feel for as just a regular, insecure man, trying to have his “fifteen minutes.” James Marsden does a great job as the “Hollywood Actor”, a role that can be easy to hate, but he plays on the cliches and brings an honest take to a man living in LA.

The film covers a number of topics, all of which felt important, but made for a slightly over-packed film. There are so many subplots that though interesting give the film a somewhat staccato nature. There was a lack of flow in certain spots which kept some of the comedic moments from really landing. That coupled with everyone saying the things outloud that few people can ever admit in therapy, gave the film an incredible honesty, but removed feel. It was hard to flow with the film, though it was fascinating to watch, there was a clear divide the screen and the audience. None-the-less, the film covers many issues that are interesting, poignant and one can see why the filmmakers were so eager to dive into them all.

Overall, this is a dramedy well worth a look. It’s not quite bold enough to be on par with Killer Joe or Bernie, but it lives in that work and is definitely more courageous than the average dramedy that you would find passing through theaters.

Rating: B

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