Ed Burns’ submission to the Tribeca Film Festival this year was Nice Guy Johnny, a comedy about a 24 year old radio DJ who spends a weekend in the Hamptons and realizes he’s about to follow through with a decision that will ruin his life. It’s hard to find fault with the acting, directing, and comedy, but it definitely missed its mark in terms of concept. It’s hard to commiserate with a struggling character when the premise is so shallow.
Johnny Rizzo (Matt Bush) is dragged into what his womanizing uncle tries to make a wild weekend in the Hamptons before Johnny gets married to his long-time girlfriend, Claire. It also happens to be only a few days before an interview Johnny’s promised his fiance he would do for an unglamorous but better-paying job with a friend of her father’s.
Of course, being a good guy, Johnny is at first dead set on staying his course and doing what he has promised; but then he meets a gorgeous, free-spirited tennis instructor, Brooke (Kerry Biche), who changes his mind about the direction his life is taking. Johnny struggles with the prospect of having a life he doesn’t want forced onto him, realizing his happiness is at stake in his efforts to please others around him.
My major qualm about this film is that Johnny’s predicament does not make him a strong protagonist to be arguing any point about following one’s heart against all odds. College-educated and coming from an upper-middle class New York family that seems both caring and supportive, Johnny doesn’t seem to have the deck stacked against him at all.
The storyline tries to argue that he was funneled into it against his will, or at least that he was manipulated into it. But, I would hardly consider his background one of desperation. He’s not a kid from the wrong side of the tracks trying to support a family or fight for a cause he believes him. He’s a college graduate who wants to be a sports broadcaster but has allowed his girlfriend’s father to pay their rent since graduation, which only marks him as an entitled pushover.
Are there any redeeming qualities? Sure! There’s some nice light-hearted humor. Edward Burns is great, and if you don’t have a vehement loathing of young adults who don’t take responsibility for their lives directly after college, you’ll probably find it entertaining, funny, and worthwhile. 2 out of 10 stars for me.