I can usually tell how good a film is based on its trailer. This one was no exception, but I went to see it anyway.
Before she shot herself in the head, Liza wrote Wilson Joel (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a suicide note. But he can't bring himself to read it. He takes time off work (aerospace, website design or some such) to go on holiday to chill out. And, apparently, to strategize how he'll alienate and lie to anyone who tries to help him through his crisis. This includes his mother-in-law, Mary Ann (Kathy Bates), who alternates between being nice and getting in the way.
His brother-in-law, Denny (Jack Kehler), is into remote control planes, boats and cars, so he pretends to be, also. Turns out his true interest is the fumes. Alas, the majority of dialogue in this picture is Wilson pleading with gas station attendants and hobby shop owners to get more of the stuff and throwing hissy fits with them and the authorities when things don't go his way. That and a debate on New Orleans's lack of beaches. To his credit, he does buy a couple planes along the way. Did I mention he sleeps on the floor because it's "a place [he] found" and he goes to the zoo to see the sun bears?
Depressing fare, this, but NOT in a meaningful sort of way. By the time the movie was half over, I didn't care if he opened the letter or not. If you ask me, his wife was better off dead. Not only that, I already knew what the major plot "twist" near the end was going to be.
Hoffman and Bates's performances are upstaged by Sarah Koskoff in the role of Wilson's boss, Maura, and by two teenage fumes addicts (Daniel Farber and Kelli Garner). Under the aegis of misery loves company, Wilson gives them gas and fuel so they can get high. At first, he recommends they just get drunk instead, to which one replies, "We don't like it." Sounds reasonable to me.
Good movies should tell a story-one with a beginning, a middle and an end. This one's all middle and a muddling one at that. If I'd have said "What?" at every non-credible event herein, I'd have been thrown out of the theatre. Wilson NEVER thinks clearly, which for a high-tech go-getter, not even his depression and his fumes can account for. Even when I've had a whole pitcher of Coors Light, I can still shoot a mean game of pool, operate a jukebox and carry on a normal conversation.
If you're looking for scenery in a feature film, you'll need to look elsewhere. Prescott, AR and Slidell, LA are not exactly my idea of location, location, location. And to think if they'd gone a few miles farther east on I-10, they could've used the spectacular bridge over Lake Ponchatrain. Oh well.
Then there's the soundtrack. For easy listening music in a film to be overbearing isn't, well, easy. But here it is, every single time. Where's Enya when you need her? She obviously decided to stay away after reading the script.
The main consideration for me in rating films is memorability and this one just doesn't have it. It's good I'm writing this down, since a week from now I couldn't tell you what the heck this movie was about.
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