Inside ’The Best and The Brightest’
Delve deep into the seedy and hilarious underbelly of the New York City elite with the June 24 release of Josh Shelov’s indie film, "The Best and The Brightest." The film, which looks at the high-stakes rat race surrounding New York City prep schools, follows Delaware transplants Jeff (Neil Patrick Harris) and Samantha (Bonnie Summerville) as they attempt to get their young daughter into a quality private school the following fall.
After hitting many roadblocks, the two eventually solicit the help of consultant Sue Lemon, played perfectly by Amy Sedaris, to negotiate the world of private school through connections to a man known only as The Player (Christopher McDonald) and his politically minded wife (Kate Mulgrew).
With Lemon spreading the word that computer programmer Jeff is an acclaimed poet, the two set their sights on winning a coveted spot at Coventry Day School by holding a chi-chi book club party. Put on the spot for a poem by the suspicious headmistress (Jenna Stern), Doogie turns to his morally bankrupt, oversexed friend Clark, who shares his sordid text messages. He passes it off as poetry, and the tony crowd eats it up, demanding more. A series of comic hijinx follows, involving a call girl, a double date at a sex club, a crazy brunette ex-girlfriend, and a near miss at uncovering the secret of surviving in the big city. The Daily Show’s John Hodgman plays a pitch-perfect academic, dissecting the semantics behind the Cleveland Steamer.
All’s well that ends well, however, and although they lose their day school spot to the socially striving Tanaka-Blumsteins, Sam and Jeff eventually find that they have what it takes to survive in the big city. Sam takes over Sue’s job so she can move into politics, Jeff finally chases his dream of being a published poet, and the two realize that there is more to life than getting their kid into a prestigious prep school.
Catch "The Best and the Brightest" on June 24 at The Quad in New York City and at Laemmle’s Sunset Five in LA.
On April 7, press company PMK*BNC held an early screening of the film at New York City’s Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema, on Houston Street. The packed-house crowd stayed after for a question and answer panel featuring Sedaris, Shelov, Michael Jaeger, and moderator Amy Dobson.
Moderator: A big congratulations to you that were involved in this film; it sounds like a real labor of love, and pretty unique in getting its audience involved from the very beginning throughout every part of the process. How did this project get started, and how did you bring all of these people together to tell this great story?
Josh Shelov: First I want to thank you all for coming. This is an absurd life highlight to have this movie here at the Sunshine Theater with all of you friends and family and... strangers who are here to see Amy Sedaris. But I would say Michael Jaeger and I had two key inspirations: One, that we were both trying to get our kids into private school, Michael was in LA and I was in Park Slope at the time, and the realities of getting your kid into private school are the absurdities of getting your kid into private school. We were bitching to each other, and said, ’This deserves to be a farce.’ We were talking about wanting to make a movie that attempted to be a "Tootsie" or "A Fish Called Wanda," not that it’s anywhere near that class of stuff, but there are so many romantic comedies, we... really wanted to make a great farce.
Moderator: Amy, how did you find this project?
Amy Sedaris: Josh called me and we met at a diner, Manatus -- I call it Fagatus -- and I told him why I was right for this part, and then he hired me.
Josh Shelov: I said it was important for the film’s financing that we get you in spite of your inferior skills. In all honesty, she said, "No, you don’t want me," and I said, "No, you’re our first choice, actually!" And she said, "Fine, pick me."
Amy Sedaris: And my child didn’t get into school. I’m home schooling it.
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Watch the trailer to "The Best and the Brightest":