Skip to main content

Dysfunction for the Holidays on Film

Tue, 12/05/2023 - 09:05
In the opening scene of "Merry Good Enough," Raye Levine suffers through a colleague's paeans to the holiday season.

"Merry Good Enough" begins with Lucy Raulie (Raye Levine) leaving her Boston office for the Christmas holiday. After a co-worker reminds her of the firm's holiday party, she begs off, then, once alone in the elevator, mutters, "Enough with all this Christmas shit."

At her family's suburban home, it's clear that her relationship with her mother is "tenuous and fraught," as Ms. Levine put it during a phone call with her and Sawyer Spielberg, who plays Sam, her family's neighbor and her eventual love interest. (Not surprisingly, the relationship is convincing, as they are married in real life.)

Written by Caroline Keene and directed by Ms. Keene and Dan Kennedy, "Merry Good Enough" is a smart comedy-drama about a family's dysfunction that comes into relief over the holidays and takes a dark turn when Lucy's mother, Carol (Susan Gallagher), disappears on Christmas Eve.

"We read the script before meeting with Caroline," Ms. Levine said. "We knew which role she had in mind for Sawyer, but we didn't know which role she had for me -- if any."

"She had written the movie about five years before we met, and she had been looking for Lucy for a long time," said Mr. Spielberg.

During the meeting at a cafe in Venice Beach, Calif., "We read the scene, and Caroline had a lightbulb moment," Ms. Levine said: " 'This is my Lucy and this is my Sam.' " 

The film, which will begin streaming on Dec. 19, will be shown at LTV Studios in Wainscott on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Ms. Levine, Mr. Spielberg, and Ms. Keene will be on hand to introduce it and take questions after the screening.

Set in a community about 30 miles north of Boston, the film revolves around the Raulie family. In addition to Lucy and her mother, the other not always smoothly moving parts are her sister, Cynthia (Comfort Clinton), an ambitious lawyer; her brother, Tim (Daniel Desmarais), who has flown in from Singapore, and their long-estranged father, George (Joel Murray), a television executive who shows up after Carol disappears.

Neighbors, friends of the family, and even a policewoman (Sophie von Haselberg), also get involved as time passes with no word from Carol. Between trying to "celebrate" the holiday (a desultory decking of the house with some 40-year-old lightbulbs), strategizing what to do about Carol's inexplicable absence, and some unwelcome interference from a family friend, the Raulies come together, if not always harmoniously.

"I think the story at its core is a love story that centers around family, but particularly the mother and daughter relationship," Ms. Levine said. "All the family members have their dysfunctional ways of being in relation to each other, so when I read the script my heart broke because I fell in love with these characters, and it felt very close to home."

"For me it felt like it was an original story," Mr. Spielberg said. "I haven't read any holiday movie that was like this before. It was more of a family drama, and the writing was so good. It had a dry sense of humor and a dark sense of humor that I'm always drawn to. It didn't have any of the usual holiday clichés."

While Ms. Levine and Mr. Spielberg have appeared in plays together, including at LTV and Guild Hall, "Merry Good Enough" is the first film they have done together. 

"It was an extremely professional set despite the constraints of making a microbudget indie film," Ms. Levine said. "There was just a lot of heart and soul put into the project."

For the Margarita’s Special Day

Jarhn Blutstein of East End Mixology creates high-end cocktails, and the recipe for her pineapple ginger margarita is here just in time for National Margarita Day.

Feb 21, 2024

News for Foodies 02.22.24

Artists and Writers dinner at Almond, Gurney’s igloos are up through March, Serafina has reopened, deals from Inlet Seafood, and more.

Feb 21, 2024

Wolffer’s Latest Cork Poppers

In addition to a series of new tastings and promotions, Wolffer Estate Vineyard has assisted in the production of a limited-edition bourbon using its casks.

Feb 15, 2024

Your support for The East Hampton Star helps us deliver the news, arts, and community information you need. Whether you are an online subscriber, get the paper in the mail, delivered to your door in Manhattan, or are just passing through, every reader counts. We value you for being part of The Star family.

Your subscription to The Star does more than get you great arts, news, sports, and outdoors stories. It makes everything we do possible.