Warning: Minor spoilers ahead!
“Project Greenlight” is really frustrating right now. That’s why you need to catch up before this Sunday’s season finale.
That’s the television critics’ version of “This tastes gross. Here, have some,” but you won’t regret it.
Apart from executive producer Ben Affleck’s claim during the opening credits that “Project Greenlight” — which returned after a decade hiatus — is a “docuseries” about making a movie, it’s really about being an entertaining reality show. Time to face the facts, Ben.
The die was cast in the first episode, when Affleck joined fellow producers, including Matt Damon, and mentors the Wachowski brothers to choose this season’s director.
Tall and wiry Jason Mann, who had directed some stylish short films, was somehow awkward and elitist at the same time. He plainly didn’t like the script chosen for the movie and basically said he didn’t believe he was the right fit for the gig. The Wachowski brothers, who were to mentor the winning director, were even firmly against Mann. So, what did they do? Picked him. It was a better reality show for it.
Enter producer Effie T. Brown. Her job is less creative and more about making sure the movie is made on budget and in the time allotted. She’ll tell you herself that she has never failed at her job. She can also unknowingly speak in tones that negate her claim that she’s coming at you “with love in my heart.” She had most recently wrapped “Dear White People.”
Now throw inexperienced but overly confident Mann in with experienced and Brown, who’s not likely to take your crap, and we have a reality TV show.
From the moment he’s named the director, Mann tries to fire the writer. And despite the budget and schedule, he insists on shooting on film rather than the cheaper and easier digital. He also pitches his own script in place of the one he was given. He then wants to move the location from LA to Connecticut. And he wants all of this even though Brown has told him that he can’t have any of it for budgetary reasons.
He’s a monster and you want to hate him, but there’s a part of you that respects him for fighting for his vision. And that will drive you nuts.
On the other hand, you have Brown. She’s just doing her job, but also trying to make the world a more inclusive place. She demands a diverse production crew — even though Damon wasn’t quite seeing it her way — and she won’t have a black person play the help when the rest of the cast and extras are white. You will like her, but also see that she isn’t the greatest communicator. And that will be frustrating.
Mann and Brown will become the central conflict of the show. Mann will go around her and appeal to Affleck and Damon to get what he wants. He will drive Brown nuts by not compromising on pretty much anything. And you will be driven crazy by what he gets away with.
She will become passive aggressive and unwilling to hear others out. At one point, she causes major players to pull out of the film when they basically wanted the same things.
Shooting wrapped on the season finale last week, in which Brown does a horrible job of managing Mann’s expectations of a big stunt he had planned. And then, it was clear that she was happy to be done with it.
Jason, on the other hand, left feeling as if he had made too many compromises — nothing could be so far from the truth.
Go now and binge the seven half-hour episodes on HBO Now or On Demand leading up to this Sunday’s season finale. Afterward, you will be dying to know if all that conflict was worth it for Mann. For Brown. For the movie.
HBO will then air Mann’s film, “The Leisure Class,” after the episode and you can make your own decision.
The “Project Greenlight” season finale airs Sunday at 10 p.m. on HBO.
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