Director: John August
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy, Hope Davis, Elle Fanning, David Denman, Octavia Spencer, Ben Falcone, Dahlia Salem, John Gatins
Plot: A troubled actor, a show runner and a videogame designer discover that their lives might be more linked than they suspect.
Review: While John August might not be a name which leaps out at you he has worked on several noteworthy screenplays for the likes of “Titan A.E.”, “Frankenweenie” and the cult indie movie “Go” which initially launched him as a screenwriter with this film marking his directorial debut with decidedly mixed results.
A three part existential drama this pet project clearly has the feel of someone trying to imitiate the experimental style of Charlie Kaufman only with none of the quirky charm as here Ryan Reynolds plays the three lead roles each heading up their own chapters starting with “The Prisoner” which see actor Gary barbequing his ex-girlfriends things before flipping his car and landing himself on house arrest. Soon however he finds himself being being plagued by the continual appearance of the number 9 around him.
Next up is “Reality Television” which now sees Reynolds playing the Television writer Gavin who is trying to get the pilot for his TV show “Knowing” off the ground while being followed for a reality show. The whole segment being shot in reality TV show style making for an interesting change of pace and helping the segment to stand out along with elements such as Melissa McCarthy’s role in this segment being to play the fictionalised version of herself. This segment perhaps the most autobiographical for August who based most of the plot on his experience’s working on the failed television series “D.C.” while he wrote the film with McCarthy in mind for her role, mirroring Gavin’s own writing were he wrote his TV show for this reality’s version of her.
The final segment is “Knowing” were Reynolds now plays the acclaimed video game designer Gabriel whose car has broken down in the middle of nowhere with his wife Mary (McCarthy) and daughter which aims for the big reveal of what has supposed to have been happening throughout the film and bring all the parts together. Instead we get the feeling of August self congratulating himself for what he’s created even though its still very much feels like a half baked and largely confusing mess.
Released before Reynolds achieved the mainstream approval he got from “Deadpool” and when many critics for some reason were keen to write him off like Ben Affleck as box office poison a tag I never really understood for either, especially Reynolds who might have come to the forefront through throw away cult comedies like “Van Wilder” and “Waiting” he’s constantly remained an intresting actor to watch especially when given a more dramatic role like he got with “Adventureland” or “Smokin Aces” and here he certainly gets that by getting to play three different leads all three of which he manages to make stand out from each other. This is certainly true in the case of “The Prisoner” and “Reality TV” two characters which are at polar opposite to each other with Gary coming across as bratty and self indulgent compared to the self-doubting and moody Gavin its just more frustrating that neither character ultimately get the interesting arc’s that they deserve and instead are left in meandering plotlines blogged down by August’s attempts to link all the segments together and play into his end game.
The supporting cast are equally great with both Melissa McCarthy and Hope Davis joining Reynolds in playing multiple characters across the different stories with mixed results due to the strength of the material rather than either actresses performance.
While I might have entered into the film with an expectation of what I was going to get it was somewhat disapointing to ultimately end up with a plot so plodding and ultimately navel gazing as the one that August chooses to craft here, as a potentially interesting idea is squandered by his attempts to really tie together three half baked stories that perhaps would have been better developed on their own than stuck together here.