The foul-mouthed, no-nonsense senior citizen can easily give itself way to presenting a caricature more than a character of organic standing. Thankfully, in If I’m Alive Next Week… screenwriting duo Jennifer Morris and Robbie Sublett (who also serve as the series’ directors and creators) manage to create an 80-something who tells like it is without succumbing to a profane stereotype.
As embodied by the wickedly grand Joyce Van Patten, If I’m Alive‘s matriarchal menace Marjorie never oversteps the boundaries into overt comedic lunacy, instead gently toeing the line between a woman who knows how she’s being treated and how she should be.
Sure she smokes and she cusses, but Morris and Sublett never implement these traits for the mere sake of a cheap laugh. Patten’s octogenarian feels fully realised, and as easy as it could have been for her “woe is me” outlook on life to be morphed into a state of annoyance, you find yourself on her side for the series’ short 23 minute, 3-chapter strong running time; the opening setting out her recent single status, the midsection detailing moving in with her daughter (even though Marjorie owns the apartment), and the finale lightly commenting on the differing states of parenting when the grandparents are in charge.
Whilst Morris and Sublett, the two co-starring as Marjorie’s exhausted daughter and her husband, respectively, have trimmed the fat on much exposition in order to slim down If I’m Alive‘s overall presentation, the mixture of dry wit and subtle situational humour suggest an extended, more traditional series would serve these characters well. I would certainly tune in each week.
A New York dramedy in every sense of the word, If I’m Alive Next Week… deserves a modest extension, but satisfies all the same as a humorous snapshot into a perfectly dysfunctional family’s life.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
If I’m Alive Next Week… is screening as part of this year’s Tribeca NOW Showcase at the Tribeca Film Festival, which is being presented both virtually and physically between June 9th – 20th, 2021. For more information head to the official Tribeca page.