The remarkably successful dramedy Quality Problems plunges us into a contemporary world that most of us in the sandwich generation recognize – a life so busy that the relative importance of our stress-inducers can blur. Something like the cake for your kid’s birthday party can seem as important as paying the bills or dealing with an aging parent. Until cancer reshuffles the deck. Quality Problems‘ insights in navigating modern life are accessible because it’s so damn funny.
Bailey (Brooke Purdy) and Drew (Doug Purdy) are a couple in their early forties with two school-age kids. Each is comfortable taking on one child-rearing or domestic task while handing off a competing responsibility to their partner. Each knows – and accepts – what the partner is – or is NOT – good at. Both have wicked senses of humor, and they are affectionate and even playful. Their relationship has weathered the usual financial and parental challenges, along with an episode where Bailey beat back breast cancer.
Brooke Purdy wrote the screenplay and also co-directed with Doug Purdy. The breezy banter between characters is often flat-out hilarious. This is not sitcom-grade humor, it’s much closer to a Hawksian screwball comedy. The characters deal with cancer and parental dementia with a dark humor that is realistic and funny.
Bailey’s single neighbor and bestie Paula (Jenica Bergere) is an essential member of the family’s support structure, but Paula and Drew loathe each other. Chained together because of their attachment to Bailey and the kids, every interaction sparks a new round of insults. This isn’t good-natured teasing – the jibes, in particular about his job and her reproductive health, are aimed to hurt. The Paula-Drew relationship adds some edginess to the mix and contributes to the film’s authenticity.
Watch for an uncredited cameo by the prolific and versatile character actor Alfred Molina (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Love Is Strange). Veteran Chris Mulkey is excellent as Bailey’s dad, who is sinking into dementia.
Quality Problems is the directing debut for Brooke and Doug Purdy, and its world premiere is at Cinequest, where I expect it to be an audience favorite.