This week Jake Gyllenhaal returned to the Saturday night live Stage for the first time in 15 years, or “400 Marvel movies ago,” as he put it the monologue. At the time, Gyllenhaal basked in applause Brokeback Mountain and fishing to become an action star, but his first venture was distinctive. As he recalled, he performed his first SNL Monologue in “Performing, starting to sing a song dream girl‘ noting that this was ‘probably the least problematic thing about this episode’.
Gyllenhaal returned to the show, he explained, because he was too focused on method acting and “kind of forgot how to have fun.” “Acting is a dumb job,” he says, one “that should be about embracing joy.” (Comic book or truth? In the Preview of this episode, I wondered why the show didn’t have Gyllenhaal as its host. Is it possible, he thought SNL been under him for a while?)
Anyway, pandering was a high priority tonightand to that end, Gyllenhaal grabbed a microphone to sing Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” with slightly different lyricstailored for hosting SNL. It seemed to cheer the studio audience. IIt’s clear that the producers and writers were obsessed with Gyllenhaal, too. He’s appeared in almost every sketch this week, including the supporting films. The results were mostly strong. Gyllenhaal was capable and responsive in all that was given to him, although there were a few sketches he should have passed on, his new fun-loving eye be damned.
“Dream Home Cousins” was a solid launch pad for this cable and streaming roach, the HGTV Build My House show. Gyllenhaal and Mikey Day are the planners who were hired to build a dream home for a couple (James Austin Johnson and Heidi Gardner) but had to remodel it because Johnson’s elderly mother and her 27-year-old cat are moving in. In the often highly constructed conflicts, who appear naturally on these shows, the writing went to pleasantly odd and occasionally laughable places. (Of course, the obese cat should have a stair lift, the master bedroom remodeled for three single beds, and the windows removed from the bathroom because Maw-Maw worries peepers will see that she “does dirt.”) Everyone’s working hard, and Johnson smacks right notes as the meek, basically mute husband caught in the middle.
I’m on record as an approximation SNL‘s Game Show Sketches With Anxiety: Eight or nine times out of 10, they indicate there’s some writer’s block that week. But “why did you like it?” was an effective piece of uncomfortable truth-telling about ourselves. Three contestants are asked why they liked a certain picture on Instagram, and a seemingly psychic buzzer indicates when they’re bullshitting. All three offer ample explanations for their choices, all of which boil down to one thing: they want to get laid. That’s funny because it’s true – no, a dominant cultural focus. (One clever note: Chloe Fineman’s prudish contestant liked a five-year-old picture of her ex’s sister in hopes it’ll lead to a mention and allow her to fulfill her fantasies of raw stalking the ex in the Starbucks bathroom.) It is a light-hearted premise, but it nailed something about modern social rituals, and something the show could do better with.
In a very hilarious account of the increasingly surreal thing that is modern corporate human resources, Ego Nwodim, Fineman and Melissa Villaseñor are colleagues going through a human resource meeting with a colleague they find conflicting with. This colleague: Chucky, the murderous doll from the horror series “Child’s Play” (Sarah Sherman). There’s an extra layer to this workplace argument: Chucky is offended over hearing the trio in the restroom compare him to Janet (Aidy Bryant), a co-worker everyone hates. But HR wants to find a solution! It’s a solid concept that’s well executed: Janet, who’s everyone’s problem, is a fun twist, Fineman’s character traces Chucky’s eavesdropping to the new gender-neutral bathroom policy, and Gyllenhaal is particularly good as the unctuous HR lackey who says Chucky that he belongs in the company because “each of us has a different story”, even if the doll repeatedly stabs his leg.
In Spring Flowers, Gyllenhaal, Sarah Sherman, Cecily Strong and Chris Redd play Flora in a garden celebrating spring before a series of increasingly ignoble events unfolds. Bowen Yang shows up as a bee to hump Flower Jake and force his way down. “I squeeze a lot of goo out of my butt and people eat it. Pretty dirty, isn’t it?” says the bee. You can see exactly where this is going, and what you imagine is basically what you get – a cascade of childish sex and fetish jokes. (Kyle Mooney emerges as Weed and asks if he can smother Blume Sherman: “I think you might like it.”) There’s one clever touch — Chris Redd’s Blume is GGG, down for everything — but even that’s in the Ground Walked: A dog comes over to piss on the quartet and Flower Redd joins in. Overall, the effect was even that dumb E. Buzz Miller would turn away. It would be nice to see SNL aim higher with their perspective on sex and kink, rather than consistently starting in the junior high basement.
Show the film appreciation Lights Camera Achoo celebrates “sick performances in film,” a dubious premise that’s dubiously true. Playing the tubercular Doc Holliday, a pale, sweaty Gyllenhaal farts, coughs blood into a handkerchief and sneezes gallons of stage blood and snot on Alex Moffatt and Andrew Dismukes. Body fluid humor works about 1% of the time (see Dan Akyroyd’s Julia Child bleed out on set and Cecilia Strong puke wine all about “Weekend Update”). It wasn’t one of them. (After two years of the pandemic, who thought lung disease would be a slam-dunk comics premise?) Worse, it pretty much ends the junior-high way: Gyllenhaal collapses and reveals he’s on the herpes drug Valtrex has in his pocket. “So you’ll always have something to remember me by,” he says to a hooker nearby. Come on people. The sketch ends with Cecily Strong’s host signing off, “who prefers to remain anonymous.” Can’t blame her.
• This week’s MVP: Aidy Bryant made the strongest impression purely on a character basis: trend forecaster on “Weekend Update”, berated Janet in the Chucky HR sketch and certainly the personal pitchwoman “Truckstop CD‘ (a sketch that would have been better without the emphasis on peeing in bottles).
• Musical guest Camila Cabello provided some day-glo dance action on her first performance and a duet with guitar-wielding Willow Smith on her second. She was capable but didn’t set the stage on fire.
• Weekend Update Lines of the Week: Michael Che describes a photo of a beaming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as “watching the Oscars ‘In Memoriam’ wrapper” and the story of a rabid fox found in DC on the loose – “Authorities suspect Fuchs contracted rabies after being bitten by Marjorie Taylor Greene.”
• That “cabaret song” Sketch almost worked: Four somewhat sad singers celebrate their disappointing performances as if they used up an entire tube of chapstick before losing it. A solid concept made for some funny moments, but was ultimately unconvincing. In a list sketch like this, the comic examples should be rock solid, and things fizzled out quickly here (as opposed to, say, the wedding reception sketch in the episode of Zoe Kravitz).
• “Cabaret Song,” however, delivered the night’s most underrated line: Gyllenhaal’s singer scans the supperclub crowd in front of him and says, “I see a lot of nice sandwiches and waters in the crowd.”
• It was nice to see Punkie Johnson as the lead in a skit and she was very effective as an actress “Couples Counselor” who tries to work with Gyllenhaal and Villaseñor while taking calls and texts from a jealous girlfriend – a solid premise that unfortunately led to Gyllenhaal reading out a series of euphemisms for female genitalia (another example of the junior high approach of the show in relation to sex).
• For the first time in a long while, I felt we saw a satisfactorily large percentage of the 21-man cast tonight.
• Melissa Villaseñor was also nicer than usual, although her roles were a bit thankless. Seeing the super-talented impressionist cast as the minimally verbal El Chapo in the trucker sketch was actually a painful reminder of how little they were used on the show.
• Gyllenhaal did the good nights evoke in a sweater Donnie Darkois rabbit. Nice fan service, JG.
https://www.avclub.com/jake-gyllenhaal-remembers-how-to-have-fun-on-a-largely-1848774628 Jake Gyllenhaal recalls having a good time on a largely amusing SNL