There are adventure films, and then there are coming-of-age or slice-of-life dramedies. Both of them have something in common, I think, even though they are totally different genres. Both have to have a sense of fantasy somewhere. Sure, the nature of it will differ, but the element is still there. The new movie Friday Night Plan seems like a slice-of-life drama at first, promising to revolve around the lives of two brothers, Sid and Adi. Later, it turned into an adventure film, where the hopes of seeing the two brothers fall deep into the rabbit hole engaged me, but the film didn’t go far enough. It was content with roaming in known territory. As far as being a coming-of-age film, it didn’t risk much. This upbeat contentment is what I think limited the film from exploring enough. The idea and the characters were there to take that leap of faith.
So, what’s the story about? Sid, the elder brother, is an uptight, cynical fellow who is constantly worried. Not about anything in particular; he is simply built that way. No, wait, according to his brother Adi, he used to be cool. Something happened while he was in high school. Now, Sid is on the verge of going to college, and he constantly worries about his college applications. Procrastination and preoccupation are his words. Adi, being the younger, knows nothing but to hail him as the best brother, and he never misses an opportunity to sing his praises. Yet Sid is tired of his behavior, for he knows sooner or later Adi will do something to get him in trouble. The brothers are looked after by their single mother, who lost her husband some time ago. She has to travel to work and leaves the house for Sid, whom she thinks is a responsible boy. When Sid wins a match for his school, he becomes an overnight sensation and gets invited by the ‘cool’ kids to the infamous Friday Night Plan. Sid also takes Adi with him, and the situation takes an unexpected turn.
There are a lot of ways this story can unfold. Brotherly dynamics are always engaging. There can be a hint of rivalry, like competing for the same girl, perhaps. But the slice-of-life part of Friday Night Plan stays away from such tropes. In an attempt to keep things relatable, the film missed out on exploring the fantastical angles. There is an annoying suppression of the flights of fancy in this film. Whenever it seemed like the stakes would rise, the plot suddenly took a U-turn, and things fizzled out. The cinematography of the film suggests otherwise. There are fast-paced cuts that reminded me of Edgar Wright’s films, such as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and both of those films are not afraid to explore the absurdities of life. The cuts may have been used because they look cool, and sure, they do. But even apart from these edits, the structure of the film also seemed to be moving towards the unknown—the fantasy part. No one had seen what Friday Night Plan looked like, and it was supposed to be a roller coaster ride. Sid and Adi’s mom were away at work, and the only trouble they got into during this time was resolved rather easily.
The internal battles going on with Sid’s character are more suited to the somber portrayals, and solving them while there is a party going on was pretty lazy writing. The character is set up nicely. Sid actually seemed to be the protagonist of the film in the beginning. He scored a goal and came into the limelight. The prom night was right around the corner, and this was another thing that made Friday Night Plan quite a Hollywood-esque affair. What Next? Sid and Adi celebrate Halloween on the streets of Mumbai. I don’t have any problem with prom or Halloween, but there are other, more relevant, and realistic nuances of the Indian school system that affect the students. The film has a global lens. The specificity of the local culture is absent. The film could have been set anywhere in the world, and hence, the authenticity seems lacking.
The performances suffer because of this lack of authenticity. There is a difference between truth and verisimilitude. Babil, son of the great Irrfan Khan, surely would be compared to his father’s ability to bring out the truth of the moment rather than ride the waves of verisimilitude. The comparison is unfair, but even without it, the performance leaves no lasting impression. Writer-director Vatsal Neelakantan is also to blame. There are song and dance numbers that are jarring, but they take a toll on the flow of the performance. Babil is there to have fun, and it’s visible. He looks a bit out of place, especially during the dance sequences.
Adi, the younger brother, is played by Amrith Jayan, who seems quite the performer and plays his objective of being the cheerleader of a younger brother quite sincerely. The bland writing doesn’t ever pinch to make you go ‘ouch.’ Not just his lines, but Babil’s as well. There is also Juhi Chawla Mehta in the film, playing the role of the mother. She is absent for most of the movie, which is probably why her credit was labeled as a ‘special appearance.’ She brings a 90s warmth to her role, even though it feels jaded. Other performers are not given much to do, and they are forced to fall back on their charming smiles and starry-eyed looks to fill in the blanks.
Friday Night Plan is a concoction of various scenarios taken from many subgenres that are not mixed well, or perhaps they were non-reacting mixtures. They produce no novelty, and in fact, the resulting mixture seems to be less than the sum of its parts. That’s never good news. The part that is somewhat memorable about this movie is that it has a general sweetness about it. The specificity and the nuances are, of course, missing, which might have made this dessert of a movie much more rich in flavor. Babil has a long way to go, but his eyes help. This story about brotherhood and individuality meandered a lot, but it was a learning curve in Babil’s career to carve out a niche for himself.