Chee and T is a Misguided Indie Dramedy
What started off as a humorous and unique Indiegogo campaign has resulted in a huge misguided mess. The film, Chee and T which was backed by 225 people raised a little over 48k which was just enough to make the film a reality. Chee and T had its World Premiere at the LA Film Festival on Thursday, June 2, 2016 and screened to a packed house at the Arclight in Culver City. It was extremely clear that most of the audience was very excited to see the film. Director/co-writer Tanuj Chopra introduced the film and stated how excited he was that the film was playing at the festival and that it sold out in just 3 days. Chopra joked that the film sold out so fast that his mother couldn’t even get a ticket to the premiere.
Chee and T follows two friends living in the Silicon Valley who work as debt collectors for Chee’s Uncle Rob (White). Chee (Bala) and T (Rains) go around an collect the debt from those who own Rob money no matter what it takes. One afternoon, Rob orders the duo to watch over his nephew Mayunk and get him ready for his engagement party happening later that evening. What seems like a simple task of going suit shopping and visiting a local barbershop quickly turns into a much more daunting task.
I want to begin this review by stating that I truly admire the fact that two friends Tanuj Chopra and Chee Malabar worked together and brought their vision to life. Regardless of what I thought about the film, I do admire people who are determined enough to take their ideas and make them a reality. I applaud all filmmakers who find ways to fund their concepts and bring them to life regardless of what I feel about the final product. The story behind Chee and T was rumored to be started from a text message conversation. This conversation was then somehow turned into a screenplay which has ultimately lead up to a 80 minute feature length film. Unfortunately, it shows that the film wasn’t really thought out or planned and to be 100% honest, the film is a flat out mess. The tone is all over the place and story doesn’t know what it wants to be. The story as well as the character development is poorly written and as a result isn’t executed well as a feature length film. The three lead characters are given some backstory but not enough to really pull the audience in or make them truly care about the outcome. While I have issues with every character in the film, the character that bugged me the most was Mayunk (Asif Ali). Mayunk is introduced as this rude and crude 20 something who half way through the film does a complete 180 out of nowhere. I understand that this character is suppose to be hiding who he really was but the way that the script handles this so called “reveal” was so poorly executed that it felt incredibly forced and rushed.
Please don’t even get me started on all the multiple subplots and storylines. I won’t go into all of them but I must talk about the subplot revolving the Palo Alto mayor played by Safety Not Guaranteed’s Karan Soni. Rob was setup as a mob boss type right from the start so by adding in the idea of him buying people in power brought absolutely nothing to the story. What makes it worse is that this subplot was never really fleshed out. We see a video about the mayor in the beginning and then he shows up periodically throughout the film and then the video is shown yet again near the end. All of these scenes added nothing. They definitely didn’t help move the story along or add any real depth to the characters. The only thing it did was introduce the character of Shana (Noureen DeWulf) who was a forced love interest for T that just like most of the film was never fully developed. Visually the film looks good. It is well shot and edited together nicely. The acting is fine but nothing to write home about. As I mentioned earlier, these characters aren’t developed enough for anyone to truly care about them. The actors seem to be doing what they can with the material but that isn’t staying much. While I don’t really think that any of this film worked as either a comedy or a drama, I would say that the final act is excruciatingly painful. Everything about the third act feels rushed or forced as the tone shifts from this whacky comedy to this heartfelt drama.
All in all, I want to give Chopra and Malabar credit for making a film and a great looking one at that. As far as everything else goes, I can’t really highlight anything else that I felt really worked about this film. Its sad because I could clearly see that there was an interesting and touching story to be told somewhere but I couldn’t look past all the films flaws, unlikable characters, and unnecessary subplots. I would be very interested to see Chopra direct another film with another person in charge of writing. I saw the potential here but it just needed the right writer to truly flesh it out.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for Chee and T is a 4 out of 10.