Film Review: Harmony and Me
A professor of mine put it beautifully when he said, “Disappointed love is the anvil on which individual character is forged.”
Everyone’s heart has been broken and it’s a right of passage along the same cultural relevance as getting a Twitter account. To become functioning members of society that can laugh at broad romantic comedies starring Sandra Bullock we need to have our heart broken. The mega-plex rom-coms use the experience as a lowest common denominator, without adding insight to the suffering of a broken heart. The films fill cliché situations with stock characters and then use everyone’s fear of a broken heart as a way to connect these weak characters with the audience. Luckily, Bob Byington makes films. In his latest film, Harmony and Me, he puts heartbreak under the microscope and studies how post-breakup mourning forges character.
The film opens with the Madonna quote, “Something in your eyes is making such a fool of me” and a montage of the better times in the relationship between Harmony (Bishop Allen frontman Justin Rice) and Jessica (Kristen Tucker). They look like a couple that makes single people jealous when they’re seen in public. But the relationship wasn’t meant to be and Harmony is soon on his own with nothing but a girl’s heart shaped locket and a handful of friends determined to get him out of the depression rut he’s stuck in. Harmony tries to get out from under the burden of his broken heart, but his efforts are in vain. Everyone knows this story; everyone could write a script about their broken heart, but most scripts would end up being shallow attempts to justify why their heart should have been broken. However, Byington doesn’t allow his film to wallow in self-pity or mope through 90 minutes, he fills every step down to the bottom with comedy. He honestly looks at the fragile mourning of a relationship and mines it for every ounce of comic gold. Harmony and Me is a wonderful film that takes a look at a broken heart, but is honest enough to realize the humor of the situation.
A scene early in the film shows Harmony going to his family for comfort, who’s best advice for him is to “find a girl who can move her arms and legs.” He feels like his family isn’t on his side, but as soon as the audience buys into the notion, we get his chain smoking mother armed with a tennis racket defending Harmony. The film winds on and it seems most of Harmony’s friends aren’t too sympathetic to his plight. Harmony gets put through the ringer with this Jessica girl, and her lack of screen time let’s the audience choose what to make of her. Are we to believe Harmony that she’s the one or are all of his friends right? It’s pain staking and hilarious to watch as this character gets beat down. It’s Like Alan Alda’s character’s favorite maxim in Crimes and Misdemeanors, “If it bends it’s funny, if it breaks it isn’t.” Throughout the film Harmony is bent by escalating uncomfortable situations and by the time it breaks the audience is fully devoted to this character. We see the character of Harmony forged by the experience.