From Jean-Marc “Are there any [transgender actors]?” Vallee, director of Dallas Buyer’s Club and Wild comes this examination of grief and love and quirkiness about death starring the poor man’s Leonardo DiCaprio, Jake Gyllenhaal. If you were hoping this would be a gritty reboot of the 1993 action-prophecy film Demolition Man, you will be disappointed.
Going in, I didn’t know anything about this movie, and my immediate feeling upon realizing that the voice over was Gyllenhaal writing a complaint letter about a vending machine felt like it was going to be yet another “entitled lost sad boy” movie like Her, Garden State or that other Zach Braff movie that some of you were duped into funding. But then, curveball, this guy has a dead wife. I’m a sucker for comedies that handle dark topics in honest ways, so I was a lot more excited about this movie when it became about a man dealing with grief and loss, and the concept of questioning how much he even knows about his late wife is interesting enough for me to want to explore and buy a ticket.
But then, because so many trailers these days seem to need to follow act structure, we get introduced to Naomi Watts’ Manic Pixie Dream Single Mother character, a customer service rep who really commits to her job. Then we skip past her and meet Manic Pixie Dream Possibly Troubled Teenage Son and the whole thing starts to feel a bit like an even darker About a Boy, with shades of the Newsroom finale. Yes, I know you never watched that, but trust me.
Cue a series of intense, fast-paced cuts and we start to lose track of what the narrative thread might be, but we get the impression that it’s supposed to be really deep and moving. There’s a beach, introspective people love going to beaches to think about deep stuff. Overall it looks like it could be interesting, and I pretty much always love me some Chris Cooper. Despite my personal objections to the film’s casting, Dallas Buyers Club charmed me more than I expected, so I’m tentatively willing to see what Vallee pulls off with this one.