(director: Jean-Marc Vallee; screenwriter: Bryan Sipe; cinematographer: Yves Belanger; editor: Jay M. Glen; music: Susan Jacobs; cast: Jake Gyllenhaal(Davis Mitchell), Naomi Watts (Karen Moreno), Chris Cooper (Phil Eastwood), Judah Lewis (Chris Moreno), C.J. Wilson (Carl), Polly Draper (Margot Eastwood), Malachy Cleary (Davis’ Dad), Debra Monk (Davis’ Mom),Heather Lind (Julia), Brendan Dooling (Todd); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Lianne Halfon, Russ Smith, Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill, Sidney Kimmel, Jean-Marc Vallee; Fox Searchlight; 2015)
“The only thing that seems to make sense is that it doesn’t.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Jean-Marc Vallee (“Wild”/”Dallas Buyers Club”) directs a Bryan Sipe script that’s meant as a heartfelt story on dealing with loss, but it takes itself far too serious.Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a sleazy Wall Street investment banker who can’t feel anything when his unfaithful wife Julia (Heather Lind) is killed in a car crash. While his wife is dying in the hospital, he tries to buy a candy bar from the vending machine and loses his money without getting his purchase. This loss seems to affect him more than the loss of his wife. He reacts by writing in pen a long personal letter expressing his grief to the vending company. The boss of his Wall Street firm, his father-in-law Phil Eastwood (Chris Cooper), is filled with sorrow over the loss, while Davis’s can’t express grief. This irks Phil. We observe as Davis cracks-up emotionally and starts a series of odd behaviors, that includes dismantling his refrigerator. His strange letter to the vending company gets a reply from its customer service rep, Karen Moreno (Naomi Watts). She turns out to be a pot smoking lonely single mom, with a troubled 15-year-old son (Judah Lewis), who is living with her imposing boss Carl (C.J. Wilson) in her suburban house. This contrivance fuels the story of how Karen stands by Davis in his time of need and a romance blooms between the needy attractive misfits. The quirky character driven story telling about how important it is to overcome the past mistakes, warns us that Davis must destroy everything from his misbegotten past before moving on to build a new life. It sounds too absurd to be taken either seriously or as a bad joke. If it’s a dark comedy that is afoot here, the only thing that seems to make sense is that it doesn’t. I found it hard to laugh at someone having a nervous breakdown or tearing down his luxury house with a sledgehammer because he’s gone bonkers. Though Gyllenhaal gives a powerful performance, the weird story leaves him twisting in the suburbs without a net under him.
REVIEWED ON 8/3/2017 GRADE: C+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/