January 7, 2011
Review - " The Dilemma " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Ron Howard
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder, Jennifer
Connelly, Channing Tatum, and Queen Latifah
Yes, Vince Vaughn and Kevin James are best buds and business
partners. When Vaughn witnesses James' wife sharing the goods with
another man, he's torn between telling his friend the truth or keeping
the secret long enough to land their big deal. That is the dilemma.
The Dilemma is an interesting movie insofar as it looks kind of like a
wacky comedy of errors on paper, and in many ways it is, but there is
more going on under the surface that takes this from typical zany
romp to funny comedy with genuine heart.
The premise is pretty simple. Ronny (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Kevin
James) are best friends and business partners on the verge of
securing a major deal with Chrysler for a device on smart car engines
that make them sound and feel like muscle cars. Nick is married to
Geneva (Winona Ryder) and they appear to be perfectly happy and
have a great marriage. Their marriage looks so good it makes Ronny
look at his relationship with Beth (Jennifer Connelly) and decide to
pop the question. While trying to book a botanical garden in which to
pop said question, Ronny sees Geneva making out with a man
(Channing Tatem) who is most assuredly not Nick. Thus begins the
painful process of Ronny trying to decide whether or not to tell his
best friend for fear the resulting fallout will ruin their deal with
Chrysler. The rest of the movie is Ronny trying to figure out what to do
whilst making everything way worse in the process.
The story isn’t really breaking new ground and touches on well worn themes but the delivery of those themes feels genuine
and heartfelt. With a director like Ron Howard at the helm one expects a certain level of quality and the trailers for this film
looked like a strange fit for him. The finished product makes a lot more sense. I am not going to float that this is a deep and
moving film that says profound things about the human condition and the nature of love but it does have a lot more going on
than typical comedies of this ilk.
In the middle of pratfalls, awkward run ins and occasional toilet humor there is a sweet movie here about friendship and
relationships that looks at the topics from several angles. The movie doesn’t just deal with one character’s perspective but
rather delves a bit into motivations for doing the things people do in relationships and what exactly is expected out of close
friendships. Do you tell when you know it will potentially devastate not just one aspect of your friend’s life but several others?
What if there are extenuating circumstances that include your friend maybe not being so pure himself? What if you have
something that makes you vulnerable to counter attack if you reveal the wife’s infidelity? Beyond those questions about the
friendship aspects the film also dives into honesty and consequences in love relationships in ways that don’t feel judgmental
or preachy but as more of a natural outcropping from the story.
The acting is good across the board particularly from
Kevin James who drops his normal shtick in favor of
some real acting on top of the goofiness he is known
for. He digs deep here and really sells some of the
more emotional scenes. It is really nice to see and the
chemistry between James and Vince Vaughn feels
really good and it is easy to buy them as close friends
both when they are getting along and when they are
not. In a supporting role Queen Latifa is a hoot as an
oversexed automotive consultant. Channing Tatum
stands out as ‘Zip’ the guy that Geneva is fucking. He
doesn’t feel like a hollow one note but rather a fully
formed person with feelings. That is one of the strong
points of the film, the characters are well formed as
opposed to just being ciphers. Jennifer Connelly has
the least to do as her job is mostly being supportive
and earnest and then eventually suspicious but she
does the best she can here. Winona Ryder does a
great job of juggling several emotions convincingly such that you can’t just villainize her entirely.
That is one of the great things about the movie, it isn’t content with giving you one dimensional characters but rather delivers
fully fleshed out characters who feel like they are doing what they are doing for a purpose rather than because it is what is
written in the script. The good guys are flawed and not totally good, the bad guys aren;t totally bad. I found myself caring
about the characters by the end of the film and that was a bit of a surprised based on what I expected going into it.
It isn’t all roses. Not all of the jokes work and there are some long stretches that could have been tightened up to keep them
from dragging. Thankfully these are fairly minor issues and don’t derail the movie but they do keep this from being great.
The Dilemma is a very good film but falls just short of being a great one. The performances, writing and direction are very
well done but the whole thing would have benefited from tighter editing and a reworking of some of the wayward jokes.
Overall, however, it is a sweet comedy that hits more marks than it misses and offers a little something extra underneath all
the more standard comedy bits. It's serious and seriously funny, and this is literally Vaughn at his most interesting in a while.