Definitely not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, I was once again taken in by very positive word of mouth. After being shown at the Sundance festival the Internet lit up with raves. When I came home, after seeing "The Last Black Man in San Francisco", I went to the metacritics and rottentomatoes web pages to find out what they saw that I didn't.
"...poignant filmmaking with an invigorating spirit" (Detroit News), "A story that melds realism into make-believe" (Seattle Times), "Lyrical, visually stunning, the poem to loss, lies and making peace with the past" (Washington Post), "It's the kind you fall into with your whole heart" (Entertainment Weekly) and "A fresh and original story of two outcasts..." (The Hollywood Reporter). The only words I agree upon from all these are '..story of two outcasts.'
The film is based on the true story of Jimmie Fails, who stars as Jimmie, and Jonathan Majors, playing his buddy called Montgomery, who is a writer and Jimmie's 'love' with an old home that he states as fact that his grandfather had built in 1946. One of the problems I had was the ages of Jimmie and Montgomery but without giving any spoilers it didn't jibe with quite a few points in the story.
There are hints of what could have been but that make-believe prevents the film from going to make it deeper including the friendship between two men that is strong without being homoerotic. There is a Greek chorus of sorts made up of 5 men that are always 'across the street' that provides a reason for a factor near the end of the film but only takes up a lot of unnecessary time. This is only one incident that slows up the film but though we meet Jimmie's father, aside from knowing they don't have a relationship we don't get much further than that and even less of the relationship with his mother who he meets, 'accidentally' on a bus.
The film really revolves around the two guys and the house but strays too far in many other parts of the script. There are some beautiful shots of San Francisco including Fails and Majors skateboarding together and singularly through the streets of the city but a scene of a white man running and stripping through the streets and another white man, nude, sitting on a bus bench next to Fails may seem to want to show some of the vibes in San Francisco but it is nothing you won't see in New York, New Orleans, Houston or any other big city. Are they white for a reason? If so I didn't get it.
Obviously I didn't get a lot in "The Last Black Man in San Francisco" but except for, maybe, a half hour, I found the movie to be slow and in some episodes, for instance, the play, to be way too much make-believe to take seriously or just a simple question of at their age why are they living in a very cramped place with Montgomery's blind grandfather, why doesn't Fails have a phone though he works, now and then, it seems. By the way, Danny Glover plays the grandfather and it feels like his part was drastically cut!
It was a choice of seeing "Yesterday" or "The Last Black Man In San Francisco" and Allen picked the latter so I'll blame him. (Mmmmm--should I mention that he slept through most of the first hour?)
Jimmie Fails dreams of reclaiming the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. Joined on his quest by his best friend Mont, Jimmie searches for belonging in a rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind. As he struggles to reconnect with his family and reconstruct the community he longs for, his hopes blind him to the reality of his situation.