Take a Drink: for each indie cliche
Take a Drink: whenever a character takes one
Take a Drink: whenever a character is on drugs
Take a Drink: for implausible logic
Do a Shot: whenever there is a bad joke
By: Matt Conway (Five Beers) –
What has happened to the career of Owen Wilson? Owen Wilson just a few years back was well-regarded as one of the best comedic actors around, being in such great hits as Wedding Crashers and Starsky and Hutch. Wilson even was a prominent actor for Wes Anderson, playing a major role in Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Limited. However, Wilson began to pick bad roles, from the dreadful Drilibit Taylor to the tired The Internship. However, I’ve always been a fan of Wilson and his talents, which got me hopeful for Are You Here.
Hearing about it from last year’s Toronto Film Festival, Are You Here looked to be an interesting blend of talent. Starring Wilson and Zach Galifianakis in more dramatic roles seemed like a refreshing move for both of them. Add that with the direction and writing talents of Matthew Weiner, who is the creator of AMC’s great Mad Men seemed like a recipe for success. Sadly, though, Are You Here is one of the year’s most inept and uninspired flicks.
Are You Here follows two friends, womanizing weather man Steve and mentally ill Ben, who regroup after Ben’s father’s death leaves Ben with a massive fortune.
Are You Here is a breath of fresh air for the leads involved here, as they really get to do different roles than usual. Both Wilson and Galifianakis play grounded versions of the characters that they play in movies, but with these characters being far more human. Wilson’s Steve, while charming, is secretly lost in his meaningless life. Galifianakis, on the other hand, plays the same sort of crazy oddball character, yet he suffers from mental illness. Seeing both of these actors playing roles with more dramatic depth was a breath of fresh air.
The duo is also seemingly the best aspect about Are You Here. Both Wilson and Galifianakis have great chemistry together, and it’s easy to buy their flawed, yet meaningful friendship. Wilson gives one of his better performances in awhile here, showing the true fragility of the usual character archetype he usually plays. Galifianakis also relishes the opportunity to do a more dramatic performance, as he gives it his all and even shaves his beard for the film.
Thanks to Wilson and Galifianakis’ great chemistry, the film actually has a few standout moments. Are You Here often addresses the rarity of friendship as people grow into adults, and that concept is tackled with a lot of heart and realism. It’s a shame that the film for the most of its running time really misses the mark.
Often times during this film, Are You Here seems like a very formulaic indie comedy. Director Matthew Weiner does very little in helping this film stand out from other indie coming of age films similar to this, directing the film in a very flat, laid back way. In a lot of ways, Weiner’s direction feels a bit amateurish, as the film’s visual feel often came off as a television movie of sorts, which should not be a huge shock because of Weiner’s background in television.
Tonally, this film is a mess. Are You Here makes a sincere effort at trying to be an indie comedy and a drama, yet unlike in some films where that mixture works, the tone often feels discombobulated. The film is often too comedic for the dramatic moments to really have an emotional effect, yet not comedic enough to work as a comedy. This leaves Are You Here lacking in perspective, as the unsure of itself tone confuses what the movie is trying to be.
Are You Here is one of the most shockingly unfunny movies of the year. Some say that there is nothing worse than a comedy that is just not funny, and I tend to agree. Are You Here, despite the comedic talent on and off the screen, fails to land any significant laughs. I will admit there was one chuckle-worthy scene within the first 20 minutes, but that was already spoiled in the trailer for the film.
Despite the movie trying to be a drama at times, the comedy in the film is mainly very juvenile. Scenes like Steve having falling around trying to catch a chicken feel like comedic bits that should be in a completely different movie. These moments only add to the disconnect between the comedic and dramatic moments in the film.
Are You Here is also incredibly misogynistic. Again Weiner’s screenplay shows another glaring area of weakness, as it seems that not a single female character in the film feels realistic or developed. Almost every female character in the film essentially is a sex entity, aside from Amy Poehler’s character who is portrayed as mean-spirited and shrill. This is insulting to the female cast, especially Poehler, who is such a great talent.
Are You Here also tries to have social commentary, which really misses the mark. This is especially the case with the ending, which tries to wrap up in an ambiguous note to create social commentary. However, this moment is filmed so shockingly poorly that it just comes off as silly, and I honestly giggled during the final scene in the flick.
Perhaps the biggest flaw with the heavily flawed Are You Here is the story direction that Wiener’s script takes. While it’s nice that the film creates characters that grow as the film goes on, the events that lead up to this growth feel flat-out strange. Characters make decisions that make very little sense considering what is established ahead of time, and a great deal of what happened felt so out there that it was lacking any sense of realism at all.
Are You Here is not only one of the worst movies of the year so far, but also one of the worst indie dramedies in quite a bit of time. Matthew Wiener’s debut as a writer and director on the big screen is so shockingly inept that I’d be surprised if he ever got to make another movie again.