Glob Lessons is a heartfelt and often hilarious dry comedy with compelling characters that makes the most of its simple premise.
The theme of friendship coming from unexpected places has been a staple of narratives ever since we as a species started telling stories. From Roald Dahl’s The BFG to E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, tales about two seemingly mismatched individuals coming together through circumstance remains a winning formula to this day. But, as seen with the two examples, this narrative trope is often relegated to children’s literature. When done for a more mature audience, romance is often depicted as an end goal of a friendship between two characters of opposite genders. Thankfully, Nicole Rodenburg’s directorial debut feature Glob Lessons, which she co-wrote with longtime friend Colin Froeber, sidesteps the romantic arc and instead focuses on character development and catharsis. The result is a heartwarming road film that is sure to warm even the coldest of hearts.
To understand the intent behind Glob Lessons, it would be beneficial to first explore the background of Rodenburg and Froeber. The pair grew up together in Fargo, North Dakota during the 2000s, where they quickly bonded over theatre and, later, film. Though they both went their separate ways after high school, they kept in touch, and, in 2012, the first ideas for what would become Glob Lessons formed. With this knowledge going into the film, it’s easy to see where many of the story and style choices came from. The general plot of Glob Lessons follows two children’s theatre performers as they stage children’s shows across the upper Midwest. Alan (Froeber) is a high-strung college graduate struggling to figure out the next phase of his life while Jesse (Rodenburg) is a sardonic drifter who only landed the job because of her connection with the man who runs the trope.
From the first scene, the chemistry between the duo is palpable: Jesse immediately takes the role of the jokester while Alan remains the straight man, providing plenty of reactions just as, if not more comical than Jesse’s antics. The humor is exceptionally dry, and you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking many of the moments awkward or mistimed, but it is exactly this sense of forced banter that reflects the relationship between the two in the early scenes. This isn’t the dream job either of them had in mind a decade ago, and the constant schedule of performances to uninterested elementary-age students serves only to heighten the middle-age ennui both are experiencing. Rodenburg and Froeber’s chemistry, undoubtedly the highlight of the entire film, ensures that each and every interaction between the two has the desired effect on the audience, be that embarrassment, comradery, or catharsis.
As the film progresses and the confines of their situation force the duo to open up to each other, the style of the film also expands, showcasing the environment where Rodenburg and Froeber spent their formative years. Director of Photography Dean Peterson films the travel scenes that take up a large portion of the film in wide angles with focus put on the smallness of the characters as they trek across the wide-open plains of the Dakotas, Idaho, and Wisconsin. It feels similar to films such as Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women or Paul Dano’s Wildlife, where the environment becomes a canvas for the characters to project their longings and aspirations on to, further heightening the listlessness that the two protagonists feel. Peterson also has a tremendous talent for capturing the eccentricates of the area, with many scenes featuring roadside attractions too bizarre to not be real. All of these stylistic choices make for a film that authentically captures the northern Midwest in a way that few movies do.
In the end, Glob Lessons succeeds due to its emotional authenticity. Both Rodenburg and Froeber draw from their own experiences in creative fields to give the scenes the desired feeling with virtually no missteps in tone or characterization. Jesse and Allen are likeable protagonists that feel like real people you would meet on the street, with their shortcomings balanced out by their idiosyncrasies allowing for growth while keeping the audience on their side. It’s a beautiful testament to both friendship and the power of creativity, an impressive debut feature and a film not to be missed.
Glob Lessons premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday, June 12, 2021.