Effie Brown/HBO
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I’d like to play poker with Effie Brown. What she’s thinking is never a mystery throughout the course of this episode; even when she’s silent, her facial expressions speak volumes. When she starts a sentence by saying “with love in my heart,” it’s the equivalent of Tony Soprano saying “all due respect”: You’re about to get whacked.

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Playing poker with Jason Mann, however, would be a bit like playing with an alien. This week’s episode opens with some boys-will-be-boys high jinks as Pete Jones and Peter Farrelly try to hit a distant doorknob with a Nerf football, and Jason fits in about as well as Mr. Spock at a frat kegger. Despite his cringe-worthy attempts at hugging, he’s no team player; he’s still firmly encased in the shell of the Uncompromising Artist. None of the Southern California houses found by location scout Alison Taylor quite evoke the 18th century Connecticut mansion he has in mind for The Leisure Class. (Effie has a great deadpan moment when she reminds Jason he’s not going to find a centuries-old house in Los Angeles.) Casting also proves to be a problem when wish-list actors like John Malkovich, Albert Brooks, and Kevin Kline quite sensibly want nothing to do with this circus. But the biggest issue continues to be Jason’s stubborn determination to shoot on film.

His intractability on this issue plays as a little disingenuous once you learn he’s not quite the film purist he makes himself out to be. Jason shot his short film Delicacy with a digital camera, the Arri Alexa, which he praises in this article on the company’s website. While still making his preference for film clear, he has plenty of good things to say about the camera’s utility, cost-effectiveness, and, yes, the images it produces. I’ve seen commenters speculate that Jason is using film as a bargaining chip—that he’ll eventually give in to video in order to get some concession in another area—but I’m not convinced he possesses that kind of political savvy. Besides, he’s already gotten just about everything he could hope for: he gets to direct his own script with his own star of choice (Tom Bell) in the role he originated in the short film. As the scheduled start of shooting nears, his unwillingness to compromise begins to take a toll on a certain producer.

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The start of the episode finds Effie riding high: She gets a box of candy for Valentine’s Day, assembles a crew that ensures The Leisure Class will at least have some diversity behind-the-scenes (even if it’s beginning to look like there won’t be much on the screen), and inadvertently executes a hilariously endearing pratfall. It never gets better than that for the line producer, though, as Jason continues to reject every possible location and every name actor in town turns down the opportunity to star in this opus. Even when a suitable actor is finally found (Ed Weeks, Tom Bell’s co-star on the BBC sketch comedy web series Tommy And The Weeks), a potential scheduling conflict with The Mindy Project could scuttle his participation.

It’s Jason’s never-ending quest to shoot on film that really sets Effie off, though. Irked by Peter Farrelly’s earlier suggestion that the production move to Georgia in order to find an appropriate mansion and enjoy a substantial tax rebate, she really loses her cool when she finds out Farrelly has scheduled a trip to the lab to show Jason a digital vs. film demonstration. Despite Marc’s efforts to play peacemaker, the situation quickly escalates, especially when Farrelly says the magic words, “I’ve made a lot of films.” That’s Effie’s line! (Notice that this week she’s down to exactly 17 feature films, as opposed to “over 17.”)

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In Farrelly’s defense, he really does seem to be trying to help. The whole point of the lab trip is to demonstrate to Jason once and for all that video can look virtually indistinguishable from film and put the matter to rest for good. Whether that would have worked we don’t know, and Effie’s frustration is understandable given that she’s already gone through this process with Jason once before. Also, Farrelly did try to include Effie when he talked to Jason about scheduling the lab session; it was Jason who decided not to bother telling her. Effie may have a valid point about “a million cooks in the kitchen” making it impossible to get everything done on their tight schedule, but her reaction here is almost absurdly over the top in comparison to the perceived crime.

That’s Hollywood, though, and that’s what makes Project Greenlight such an addictive watch when it’s cooking. Perhaps perceiving that he’s being pulled into a manufactured made-for-TV drama, Farrelly bows out of the production. ‘We could be fucked,” says Marc, the one who brought Farrelly on board in the first place. Even he must realize, however, that the worse it gets for the production, the better it gets for the TV show.

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Stray observations:

  • “I’m in California. The buildings don’t protect me from the sun.” Well, at least Jason is finally admitting he’s a vampire.
  • It’s a little depressing that Bruce Davison had to audition for a Project Greenlight movie…and didn’t even get the part. It doesn’t look like he’s exactly hurting for work, so maybe he was just doing someone a favor.
  • Did you know that Jason didn’t direct the short version of The Leisure Class? Per IMDb, it was directed by someone named Richard Dewey. Jason wrote the story and received co-screenwriting credit with four of the actors.
  • The Douglas Fairbanks house “seems like it has that Old Hollywood feel.” Imagine that!

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