A slightly self-deprecating movie that pretty writes its own criticisms.
Review (with Spoilers)
At this point, I can firmly say I am an Olivia Wilde fan and if her name is attached to a film, likely I will sooner or later watch it. Though I must admit, with her being paired with Jason Bateman, whose appeal I do not understand, I was a bit hesitant about seeing this. As for whether that hesitation was justified, read below.
Characters & Story
A nearly 40 year old man named Conrad (Jason Bateman) gets cut off from his parents’ wealth as they go through the process of getting divorced. Though rather than him just stop receiving his weekly allowance, he is also kicked out of his home in the father’s hotel, left without any cash, and is forced to ask for a loan from his chauffeur, and father figure, Bernard (Barry Primus). But even without his family to lean on, there is Conrad’s friend Dylan (Billy Crudup) who he has a rather odd relationship with. For while they enjoy a certain amount of comradery, there are also feelings of admiration in the form of envy, if not jealousy, between them. As well a sense of competition.
So with Conrad down on his luck, and a bit unwilling to let Dylan have the beautiful model, pianist, and overall pleasure known as Beatrice (Olivia Wilde) as his best friend’s girlfriend, he decides to move in on her. Leading us down a very familiar plot dealing with a woman coming in between long term friends, her choosing the exciting guy over the sensible one, and a general feeling that you have seen this plot done before, and done better.
Setting aside the bias which comes from being an admitted fan, honestly the only one worth praising in this film is Wilde. For like in Third Person, she presents herself, and her character, as someone beyond what she was likely written to be. What I mean is, easily if it was any other actress you would see Beatrice as simply the female lead who is meant to be solely a love interest. However, with Wilde she somehow gives her characters this sense that there is more to her life than the time spent with whoever the male lead is. Or, to put it another way, she doesn’t make her character seem she is there solely to support the lead’s development, but has her own past, present, and aspirations for the future. Making it where, especially in the beginning, I wanted to see Beatrice’s point of view on all that was going on far more than Conrad’s.
Leading to the criticism of the film which, honestly, the film provides. For while the character of Jocelyn (Jenny Slate) is talking about a French play the characters go to, honestly her criticism of the play is close to mine when it comes to the film. The first criticism which fits how I felt is: “How am I supposed to care about a group of over privileged affluent types who go gallivanting around without any sort of moral compass?” and the second: “How am I supposed to sympathize with these characters? [When] no one suffers any consequences for their actions, no one learns anything, and nobody changed?”
And in all honestly, that is damn near how I felt while watching this. You see, Conrad is as annoying and insufferable as Jasmine was in Blue Jasmine. He is the type who you are glad to see fall from grace, but while he does lose damn near everything, you don’t see a real change in him over the course of the movie. He, for most of the movie, is the same rich butthead he always was, but now he doesn’t have a dollar in his pocket, or bank account, to back up his attitude. Then comes his character’s development over the course of the film, of which isn’t some gradual thing. No, instead it is all done within 5-10 minutes, not too long before the film ends. Making it seem like writer/ director Peter Glanz was unsure whether to leave Conrad as an unlikeable butt head who learns nothing despite becoming temporarily destitute, or whether he should change his ways. Though what perhaps really got me was that Bateman just fits Conrad’s personality so much that you want so badly to see some sort of consequences for his actions, which include stealing from Dylan, but nothing seriously bad happens to him. Oh, but him getting hit by a car. However, with the accident only being minor, and used to give Conrad a comedic moment in which he suddenly knows how to speak German, there is no real satisfaction given at all.
Overall: Skip It
As I was watching this I was thinking to just label this as TV Viewing for I did enjoy Wilde’s performance as Beatrice. However, one woman’s performance, even that of Wilde’s, cannot carry one film. A film which has a butt head for a lead who isn’t on the level of Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, and isn’t even a loveable, or eventually redeemed, butt head like Irving from American Hustle. No. Instead he is like Jasmine in Blue Jasmine who, despite an utterly unappealing character, one which doesn’t evolve into anything worth making a motion picture over, here he is! Leading to me understanding why this was delayed 2 years, has low ratings wherever I look it up, and why I didn’t even know about this film until I looked up Olivia Wilde’s filmography.
“If I tell you ‘I love you’ does that mean I actually love myself?”
— The Longest Week
“At some point, you’re going to have to come to the same realization I did: The rest of the world is never going to love you as much as your parents do.”
— The Longest Week
“You can always tell what somebody thinks about you by who they set you up with.”
— The Longest Week