Here’s another flick that has been sitting in my DVD library for years, bought on a whim and filed away, forgotten and unwatched. Maybe it should have stayed that way. Today’s review is somewhat shorter than most, since I have decided to temporarily subscribe to the theory of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. Well, aside from the strict interpretation of “anything at all”.
What’s with the flaming arrows?
Emotionally numb 26-year-old Andrew Largeman returns from LA to his hometown in New Jersey for his mother’s funeral. Off his lithium for the first time since he was 10, he suddenly finds himself starting to really experience life while also falling in love with the local crazy girl. Bring on the wacky hijinks.
I really wanted to like this film. Scrubs was one of the best sitcoms of the last decade (if you choose to ignore the last couple of seasons), mostly thanks to Zach Braff’s JD. When his debut film as writer/director was released, I was genuinely eager to see it. I was hoping for a witty, charming, possibly somewhat autobiographical comedy. What I got was another “woe is me” exercise in navel-gazing that mistakes random quirks for characterisation. Apparently Braff wrote the first draft of the script while working at a restaurant before getting his big break. The subtle as a sledgehammer level of subtext – wallpaper shirt! Screaming into the abyss! – seems to support the idea of an inexperienced early-twentysomething behind the typewriter. I wonder if he got around to writing a second draft before starting production?
There were two things I did like about the film though. First, Peter Sarsgaard as Largeman’s old high school friend Mark. He’s the sarcastic and impulsive opposite of Largeman’s more reserved tendencies, and I couldn’t help thinking how I’d rather be seeing this guy’s story. The second thing is Natalie Portman’s smile. Sam – the character she plays – is a collection of just about every Manic Pixie Dream Girl cliche in the book, to the point where she doesn’t even register as a real person anymore, but I’ll be damned if her smile couldn’t melt even the most cynical of hearts.
Hipsters and indie-kids will probably love this. Me? Not so much.