Dir. Matt Aselton, US, 2008, 98 mins
Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, John Goodman
Review by Carol Allen
Aselton's debut film is an offbeat and unusual story with a first class cast but it doesn't convince on a realistic level and if, as one suspects, it is intended as a comic fantasy, it doesn't really work as that either.
Dano, the creepy preacher man from "There Will Be Blood", plays mattress salesman Brian Weathersby, who falls into a romance with rich and wacky Harriet (Deschanel), when she comes into his store and falls asleep on one of his mattresses. Both of them have hang ups about their parents - not exactly a new concept that, of course. Harriet's father is a rich, loudmouthed art collector (Goodman). Brian, the third and "afterthought" child of now elderly parents(Ed Asner and Jane Alexander), is suffering from some sort of identity crisis, while at the same time trying to adopt a baby from China.
Dano is a good actor but he doesn't really have a well drawn character to latch onto here, while Deschanel's cute and attractive as Harriet but definitely flaky. Brian and Harriet both come over as depressed, dozy and at times almost catatonic, mouthing flat and dreamy dialogue in a relationship which appears to be based on very little substance. Brian's reasons for wishing to adopt a Chinese baby seem a bit insubstantial as well to say the least and in real life he wouldn't have a prayer. And when we discover the reasons for their neuroses from Harriet's equally flaky mother and Brian's mum, one does tend to think they're actually rather spoiled young people being unhappy for no good reason and should "get over it".
Oddly for a film where the story's about young people, it's the older generation who give it what energy it has. Goodman gives the story some colour and the whole thing lifts when he's on screen. Asner too as Brian's dad livens things up. Clarke Peters plays what one might term the "Morgan Freeman role" of the wise, older black guy, while Alexander is sadly underused as Brian's mum. And there's a sequence involving the unpleasant and violent death of an aggressive homeless man, which is not only out of key with the overall tone of the film, but seems utterly pointless and irrelevant. Aselton's use of the camera with its emotionally remote and objective viewpoint is interesting and the contributions of the supporting older actors make the film watchable. But overall it's somewhat unengaging and inconsequential.