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Lemon [Timothy Michael Cooper, USA, 2017]

How well do we really know the people we love? And at what moment can one really decide when it’s the right time to devote the rest of their life to that special someone? The basic principles of love and marriage appeal to mutual trust, devotion and sacrifice, but to what degree the boundaries of these pillars can be pushed is a complicated and idiosyncratic mire of personal rules, regulations and emotions. Seconds after their matrimonial ceremony has taken place, a newlywed groom (Noah Bean), with his bride (Jennifer Westfeldt) in tow, scurry towards their suite as he confesses to her that, when he told her he was a high-powered trial lawyer, he “kinda never really passed the bar”. She doesn’t appear too flustered by this admission and asks him innocently, “Does the firm know?”

“There is no firm”, his detached response.

Liar, liar, pants on fire!

And so begins Lemon, an incisive and deliciously un-romantic comedy from indie film director Timothy Michael Cooper. It turns out the groom is actually a Starbuck’s barista. The list of confessions from the groom continues to unfurl: his father isn’t really dying, he doesn’t want to have children immediately, and his family are in a lot of debt... You get the idea. In this particular relationship, the truth has been bent, twisted and stretched to great extremes. In the search for reassurance, the bride confides in her sister, “He’s like a bad car, I just drove him off the lot and he’s already falling apart”. Her sister’s advice is essentially to live with it and figure it out along the way. As the lies become more and more absurd, the bride realises exactly what she’s signed up for but, as things turn out, she holds a few secrets of her own…

Lemon is a sharply observed comedy with a very modern style. It taps into the fast-paced, ‘no holds barred’ sassiness of any number of online web-series (with fluid editing by Emily Chao), whilst retaining a classic sensibility with a great ear for a snappy one-liner in the mould of a 90s sitcom like Frasier [USA, 1993–2004], Seinfeld [USA, 1989-98] or Friends [USA, 1994-2004], Westfeldt even bearing a notable resemblance to Lisa Kudrow who plays Phoebe Buffay in the latter series. Lemon is a successful entry in the sketch comedy canon and within it Cooper proves there is still much freshness and zest.

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