Nat Wolff and Emma Roberts are two of the biggest names in young Hollywood, so it only makes sense that they are in a romantic comedy together. Ashby, also starring Mickey Rourke, follows student Ed (Wolff), who is given the assignment to interview an "old person," so he turns to his odd and mysterious neighbor, Ashby (Rourke). What starts off as a reluctant school assignment turns into an unlikely friendship. It's a familiar story, but is Ashby based on a true story? It wouldn't be surprising, but as it turns out, the movie is more inspired by other films than based on an actual story.
The name of the title character should tell you a lot about where the movie draws its inspiration from — at least it does for fans of the film Harold and Maude. Director and writer Tony McNamara is a huge fan of the cult classic and used it as a muse for the movie. For one, the main character is named Ashby Holt and the director of Harold and Maude is Hal Ashby. That's a big giveaway.
The name is one thing, but Ashby also follows the "odd couple" idea of Harold and Maude. It takes two totally different characters and has them develop a relationship. In the case of Harold and Maude, it was more romantic, but in Ashby it's a mentor/mentee situation. But both movies explore the relationship between older and younger generations and how one generation reflects on the times things may have gone wrong, while the other has no idea where they're going in life or how to live it.
In the case of Ed and Ashby, Ed is the new kid in town. His mom (Sarah Silverman) is newly single and he's trying to wrap his head around that. At the same time, he's trying to acclimate to a new high school. He's an awkward outsider and is trying his best to develop something with Eloise (Roberts), a girl he's swooning over. When he's given the class assignment, he takes a chance on approaching the gruff and recluse Ashby. Ashby eventually agrees, and that's when the friendship begins. Ed learns that Ashy used to be a CIA hitman and things start to get even more interesting. Ashby begins to teach him about "being a man" and builds his confidence. In turn, Ashby learns a thing or two about himself from the young man.
Ashby isn't necessarily breaking new ground when it comes to movies, but it's not trying to. It's doing the same thing that Harold and Maude did. It's helping to bridge the generation gap that people tend to fall into all the time. It's a lesson of respecting our elders and in turn, it teaches older generations that not all young people are idiots.
This film also has a similar premise as St. Vincent (no, not the band). Starring Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, and Jaeden Lieberher, St. Vincent follows Oliver (Lieberher) and his recently divorced mom (McCarthy) move into a new town. Oliver is an outsider, gets picked on at school and then befriends his curmudgeon of a neighbor, Vincent (Murray) who helps him build his confidence. It all ends with a school assignment that involves Oliver recognizing Vincent as a living Saint.
Yet despite the similarities, old person-befriends-young person is a relevant story that audiences will never grow tired of. Bottom line: respect your elders and your youngsters — no matter how bizarre they may be. You never know what you'll learn from each other.
Images: Peter Taylor/Paramount (2), Giphy