Home » The Send-Off is a Black Comedy About the Cynical Side of Hollywood [Review]

The Send-Off is a Black Comedy About the Cynical Side of Hollywood [Review]

The Send-Off is a black comedy/drama about fictional Emmy award winning actor, Dan Richards, played by Zachary Ray Sherman (Under the Banner of Heaven), who holds a last-minute party for himself after receiving unexpected and disheartening news. Dan invites all of his Hollywood “friends”, and I put friends in quotations because calling them friends is an enormous stretch. Most of these friends would push Dan in front of a bus if given the chance. As the night unfolds, secrets are revealed, and this send-off party turns into an unforgettable night for all of those in attendance.

The Send-Off was written and directed by John-Michael Powell, in his feature debut, and executive produced by Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). Exploring typical Hollywood tropes like insecurity, jealousy, and kiss-ass-ery, The Send-Off is funny at times, and sinister as the tangled web comes undone. The movie opens with Dan receiving news that has him so upset that he ties a noose, gets up on a stool, and nearly hangs himself. A call from his mother saves him, and he comes to his senses and instead decides to throw a lavish party at his home, as most would do after having suicidal thoughts… 

Amongst Dan’s “friends” that show up, one is his ex-girlfriend, Alexis, played by Lena Drake. Alexis and Dan did not end on good terms, and both of them seem to be having difficulty coming to terms with that, in different ways of course. Some of Dan’s other friends include Craig, played by Michael Rishawn, Arnie, played by Ben York Jones, Niko, played by Devere Rogers and Tanya, played by Rory Uphold. Arnie has a particular disdain for Dan, mainly because of jealousy. The others seem to have cautious optimism about their friendships with Dan. If Dan wasn’t a famous and successful actor, most likely none of these people would have the time of day for him. The performances by all of these actors are effective, and the bulk of the movie is spent exploring the relationships between these Hollywood folk. Wouldn’t shock me to learn that all of these thespians are friendly or at least familiar with each other in real life, and I’m sure some of them, if not all, are able to pull from experience regarding what it is like to have that rich and successful asshole friend, who you can’t help but wonder how the hell they became successful. 

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Dan’s Hollywood Hills home is exactly what you would expect from a pretentious actor. A sleek and modern empty space where the only decor seems to be Dan’s Emmy trophy, which happens to follow him from room to room. Even though most of the guests at the party are known by Dan, some actually aren’t. One of these randos, Clayton, played by Sean Harrison Jones, shows up to the party with a friend, and I wish Dan had dismissed him upon arrival, because his subplot is my least favorite in the movie. For whatever reason we leave the party with Clayton for a scene, and I couldn’t grasp why. On the other hand, the other scene involving a stranger wound up being my favorite in the movie. In this scene, Dan is almost fully unhinged and drunk, but stumbles across Lee, played by Brayden Dalmazzone, a friend of Mara, played by Rhian Rees, and the pair are watching Orson Welles’ The Stranger. As Lee tells Dan what a big fan he is, going as far to say he was inspired to come to Hollywood solely because of Dan, which is the funniest form of kiss-ass-ery, Dan is still authentically touched by this in a real way, and while sitting with them for a second, goes on a monologue about the greatness of Orson Welles and how inspired he was by him. I enjoyed seeing Dan at his most vulnerable and authentic. Between having hallucinations of talking to James Dean, which has big time Elvis Presley/True Romance vibes, and being awe-inspired by Orson Welles, the Dan character makes sense as someone who genuinely loves the art form but can’t stay out of his own way to maintain genuine, real-life relationships.

The complexity of the Dan Richards character is very well-written and well-performed. Dan is an empty soul in so many ways, and Sherman does a great job with the portrayal of that type of character. Dan’s cracks in his armor continue to get deeper, all leading to a finale that is an encapsulation of modern Hollywood. The end is most definitely either coming or already here for people like Dan and the others, a reckoning is more likely than not in today’s day and age…

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Technically speaking, The Send-Off is very well done. Well-written and well-filmed. By splicing back and forth between the party and a previously filmed interview that Dan seems to be doing for a previous but recent press tour, the audience gets a feel for how his confidence is actually front-facing, and his walls seem to be coming down rapidly as he unravels. To avoid spoilers, I won’t reveal the third act, but the minor details and character intricacies properly placed throughout the movie have a definite pay-off by the end.

All of the scenes at the party seem like realistic party scenes, especially in Hollywood, where status and who-you-know seems more important than authentic relationships. No matter who it is in the movie, everyone is flawed in some way, obviously some more than others, but I appreciate how there was no moral high ground, as everyone is full of shit. Again, I won’t spoil the end, but I will say I was frustrated when the credits rolled. I thought the ending was trying too hard to get a forced chuckle from the audience, like a Nathan Fielder sketch. I would have found it more effective if it went a little darker. Maybe I shouldn’t be so cynical, but I found it to be a little annoying to end a movie like that, with an otherwise well-paced and interestingly dark story…

Overall, I thought this was a pretty good film. Although the ending was frustrating to me, I think the arc of the Dan character is darkly unsettling. There are aspects of the finale that I liked, the comeuppance and symbolism are clever enough to make The Send-Off a satisfying and entertaining movie that is funny at times and has plenty of plot-twists that will keep you engaged, all the way to the very end…

Wicked Horror Rating: 6.5/10

The Send-Off is now available via VOD.

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