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When you’re in your 20s and the reality of adulthood hits hard, easy money is tempting. But rather than racking up the number of credit cards David has, he instead gets into arms dealing with a friend he hasn’t seen in over a decade.
Characters Worth Noting
David (Miles Teller) | Efraim (Jonah Hill) | Iz (Ana de Armas) | Henry Girard (Bradley Cooper)
22-year-old David is living with a cute girlfriend, who he recently got pregnant, is a college dropout, failed entrepreneur, and his sole steady paycheck is rubbing the bodies of older men. Men who like to tease him a little bit. As you can imagine, he is frustrated with how his life has turned out. That is, until Efraim, his friend from when he was a kid, pops up at a mutual acquaintance’s funeral and they hang out. Efraim shows off this grandeur lifestyle and of course, David wants in. He has a kid on the way, wants to do right by his girlfriend Iz, and doesn’t want to struggle. No, he’d rather trade in his morals in order to obtain the mighty dollar. Hell, even to benefit Iz and his child, he’d lie to her if he had to, and he does.
Thing is, when you have two young men with a huge amount of ambition, willing to fib or outright lie to get ahead, it has to catch up with them eventually right?
Hill has mastered crafting someone you love to hate. Efraim, no matter what aspect of his personality or business side, is someone you can’t inherently stand. He is a professional con artist with a polarizing laugh which will either crack you up or annoy the hell out of you. On top of that, he is a pro at being selfish. He will adapt to the minimum required to get what he wants out of you, and then play you for a fool. Reminding you that despite some really odd and questionable films in Hill’s filmography, he has been in the game for over a decade and certainly has learned a thing or two.
Perhaps the main problem of this film is that on top of the trailer giving away most of the best parts of the movie, the trailer sells you an action comedy. Making it so when Teller is left to present, mostly on his own, the film’s dramatic elements, he almost seems like a liability. For with Hill, being his usual comical self, like a borderline caricature of what supposedly is a real person, it makes David’s issues that Teller is trying to portray feel unwelcomed.
David is trying to make money for his family and Efraim is trying to get his full hour with a prostitute. David is trying to be a good father and boyfriend, and Efraim is flipping out because someone corrects him in a meeting about IBM just being a random set of letters. I mean, the straight man and the fool works in a lot of movies, but it doesn’t here. For on top of Teller trying to bring you the drama, and not doing so well at that, you are left wondering why this story, in particular, was important to tell? What makes two kids, barely old enough to drink, worth making a movie about? That question is never really answered.
Going back to the topic of Teller in this film, as I wrote this review, I was questioning that with how much Hill gets to eclipse Teller in this film, could it be Teller has lost his luster? Maybe that charm and possible IT factor wasn’t all him? Could it be that with his co-star challenging him to be better in past dramatic roles, or love interesting complimenting him well, could that have been it? Could it be that when someone isn’t in it to support his character but rather just make their character the one remembered after the credits roll, is Teller no longer the type of lead I, admittedly, have taken him for?
Either way, be it the movie selling one thing and you buying another or Hill and Teller’s having unbalanced chemistry, even in this film is “Based on a True Story,” you never get why this one, in particular, was an important one to tell.