Are You Here

2015-02-13 12:15

What's it about:

Two childhood best friends embark on a road trip back to their hometown after one of them learns he has inherited a large sum of money from his recently deceased estranged father.

What we thought:

For someone who created Mad Men and has written for The Sopranos, you would expect something a bit more concrete in a script from writer/director Matthew Wiener. Are you here? cannot decide what kind of comedy it aims to emulate – farcical or eccentric humour – and rather ends up with a deformed mashup of both, resulting in an below-average comedy that is neither here or there.

A disturbed but somehow non-dangerous man Ben (Zach Galifianakis) finds out his estranged father has dies, and seeks the help from his only friend Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson) – a sexist weatherman that coasts through life on luck and charm. They head to their hometown for the funeral where they have to deal with Ben’s neurotic and domineering sister (Amy Poehler) and his young hippie stepmother (Laura Ramsey). When they find out that most of the estate was left to Ben, hilarity/sadness ensues.

On the surface the film purports a message of true friendship, sticking it out through crazy times as well as the hard times, but the most I got out of this film is that one should take one’s mental illness medication and that anti-capitalism comes from the crazy realm. Its sentimentality got lost in the weed fumes and after almost two hours you also start feeling a bit high from the insanity-is-funny-but-not-really gags. You feel conflicted about laughing or feeling pity for Ben, and see no sincerity in Steve’s friendship with this eccentric man, who rather exasperates his mental state than try to really help him.

Galifianakis and Wilson could have made a more formidable comedic pair in a more traditional comedy, but in this pseudo comedy they only played more of the same roles they always play. Their attempt at serious character development seemed hurried and forced, as if they had to be pushed off a cliff in order to change (which is also the fault of Wiener). The few laughs they elicited were deadly hollow, and the same is said for Poehler’s performance who you know can do better. Amongst these pseudo characters the only one that had a remote connection with the audience was the stepmother, who is surprisingly the sanest throughout with an above-average act from Ramsey.

As forgettable as the town the film is set in, Are You Here falls so flat that it will probably disappear from the cinema circuit quicker than you can say “Galifianakis”. Don’t be fooled if it appears on the line-up at an art-house or nouveau cinema – it cannot hide its crassness under a veneer of pretentious drama.

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