The first one, “David,” stars Will Ferrell and William Jackson Harper (from “The Good Place”). Ferrell plays a therapist and Harper plays the patient, who has called Ferrell for an emergency session. As Ferrell tries to talk Harper down from his anxiety, they are paid an unexpected visit from Ferrell’s son (Fred Hechinger, the wonderful young actor from “The White Lotus”). He is dressed in his high school wrestling outfit and demands his father drop what he’s doing to come watch him win the big match he’s been talking about for weeks. Poor Harper is caught in the middle and makes every effort to leave.
With Ferrell in the role as the therapist, we’re conditioned to expect something goofy to take place, but Ferrell is so good here at keeping the viewer off-balance, even as the tension behind this uncomfortable situation is heightened. Hechinger, likewise, never lets Ferrell off the hook and makes his character’s desperation for acceptance believable, giving the impression that this outburst is nothing new for them.
The other film, “Bud,” seems inspired by experiences many in show business may be having at the moment. Woods has worked with his fair share of actors who have been “cancelled,” and “Bud” takes a sympathetic viewpoint without being clear about the nature of the main character’s cancellation or occupation. Michael Peña plays a man taking his daughter, Maddie (the very talented Everly Carganilla from Netflix’s “The Chair”), out for her birthday at a restaurant where a waiter may or may not sing her a special birthday song. As they wait for their food, other patrons stare at them, take pictures and confront Peña head-on about how horrible he is/was.
As we watch “Bud” and grow aware of Peña’s fallen status, we become more and more curious about what he did to lose public favor. Woods makes a smart decision to keep us in the dark about it. Not to say it doesn’t matter, but more to the point, people should try to use a little more tact if that someone is trying to enjoy a dinner with their seven-year-old daughter. Somehow in society, people have appointed themselves judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to a celebrity’s misgivings and private life. We never learn if his behavior (or that of his father, if you listen closely to one of the patrons shouting at him) was justified, but poor Maddie now has to bear some of the brunt of it in public. Woods doesn’t preach about any of this, thankfully. This is more of a story about a little girl who may have to grow up a little faster than she expected.