Review: Room For Rent showcases two brilliant comic actors

Matthew Atkinson’s weird comedy features Brett Gelman and Mark Little as two grown men acting like children

ROOM FOR RENT (Matthew Atkinson). 89 minutes. Opens Friday (October 26). See listing. Rating: NNN

If you know Brett Gelman and Mark Little, you probably don’t need any more convincing to see Room For Rent, the very weird little movie that stars the two comic MVPs.

If you don’t know them, Gelman is the tall, balding creep from shows like Love, Married and the second season of Stranger Things while Little is the tall, not-balding goof from shows like Mr. D and Space Riders: Division Earth. (You should know them. They’re each kind of brilliant, in their own way.)

Anyway, Room For Rent – which is written and directed by Matthew Atkinson – puts Gelman and Little together for a comedy about two grown men acting like children, to which both actors are very well suited. 

Little stars as Mitch, who won the lottery as a teenager and blew it all in the decade and a half that followed, ending up a 32-year-old afraid to leave his parents’ house. When Mitch’s dad (Mark McKinney) is laid off, Mitch convinces him to take in a lodger… which brings Gelman’s Carl into the house. 

Mitch takes an instant dislike to him, of course, even though he can’t convince anyone else that the new guy poses some sort of threat. And that’s the engine that drives writer/director Atkinson’s comedy of discomfort, with the immature Mitch determined to oust the unshakable Carl – and Carl gradually turning Mitch’s parents against their idiot son.

It’s a delight to see Little’s nervous fragility bounce off Gelman’s unctuous composure in scene after scene, though I do worry that people who don’t know their previous work might just get tired of watching these weirdos yelling at one another. And Atkinson’s script does kind of stall out once all the hidden agendas are revealed, though Room For Rent does find its second wind just in time for the finale.

Also delightful: Carla Gallo and Patrick J. Adams, who turn up as schoolmates of Mitch’s who’ve taken very different paths in life. Oh, and Stephnie Weir adds some texture as Mitch’s increasingly exasperated mom. But let’s not kid ourselves: this is Little and Gelman’s picture all the way. | @normwilner

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