This movie should have worked. I’m not saying The Dilemma should have won Oscars. There was no expectation of an absurdly high meta critic score or massive box office success. This would be no huge monkey maker for the studio. All that being said, going in, it had some things working for it. Vince Vaughn plays that guy Vince Vaughn plays very well, and the trailers quite clearly show he’s basically playing himself. Kevin James is a good if not great comedic actor. Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder have proven themselves to be immensely talented actresses, and here they were playing the significant others of our movies leading men. Oh, and somebody named RON HOWARD was directing. He did a few little movies like Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code, and Frost/Nixon. So while I wasn’t expecting a ground breaking movie experience I was expecting one thing. I expected that a comedy with this much talent would make me laugh. Sadly, that was not the case. I know in every movie review I put up here I always say “the less you know about the plot the better”, but forget that this time. I’m going to spoiler the hell out of this movie, because it doesn’t matter. So if, for some reason, you want to avoid spoilers, stop reading now. Keep reading, and wonder with me why what should have been a decent comedy became an unfunny almost drama with characters who don’t even come close to acting like normal people would in their given situation.
Vaughn and James play Ronnie and Nick, partners in an engine design company. Ronnie is the slick talking salesman (how could you screw up Vince Vaughn as a slick talking salesman!) and Nick as a sort of super stressed out genius who can do wonders with engines. The movie opens with them getting the biggest business project of their lives, building a prototype engine that Chrysler could potentially buy. On a deadline. Ronnie is dating Beth (Connelly) and is preparing to pop the question to her. He hadn’t before because he had a gambling problem that she helped him through. Nick is married to Geneva (Ryder), and they seem the perfect couple. So of course, Ronnie sees Geneva making out with some random dude (Channing Tatum) in the botanical gardens he’s scouting as a place to propose. It’s at this point that the movie goes off the rails.
Ronnie is freaking out about if he should tell Nick, this part makes sense. Ronnie quickly realizes that Nick has been his best friend and business partner since college, and it’s his duty as that best friend to say something. Ronnie approaches Nick at the office and says he needs a few minutes with him in private to talk about something extremely personal. So naturally, Nick, as his best friend, agrees and they…wait. No, scratch that. Nick BLOWS HIM OFF. And yells that’s he’s busy. If your BEST friend got super serious and asked to talk to you about an extremely personal matter, would there be any possible way you’d have that reaction? Barring extreme circumstances, no. And thus begins a string of events that make no sense.
For reasons that are never made clear, Ronnie not only gives up on telling Nick right away, but also never tells Beth what he saw. When Beth finds a wad of cash Ronnie is carrying around (which is to buy her a ring), Ronnie concocts some lame story about it being for a business client. The audience will instantly recognize that Beth is thinking “wads of cash…oh no he’s gambling again”. One would think that Ronnie would realize how this looks too and tell the truth, at least to Beth. Nope, he remains oblivious. It doesn’t get much better from there. When Ronnie confronts Geneva about it and demands that she tell Nick or he will, she becomes an EVIL PERSON. Seriously, Winona Ryder breaks out the ultimate bitch mode and does a whole act for Ronnie about how she’ll tell Nick that Ronnie has been hitting on her for years and has started becoming uber aggressive and that’s she scared. She then pretty convincingly fake cries, fixes Ronnie with an ice-cold stare and orders him to stay the hell out of her marriage. Woah! What the hell movie am I in!
That sentiment right there is really the crux of the problem with this entire film. Many comedies today have elements of drama to them, which is fine. The Dilemma just veers into being an ACTUAL drama entirely too often. There is a scene set at a party for Beth’s parents who are celebrating their 40th anniversary. Vince Vaughn grabs the glass and starts to make a toast about honesty in relationships, a thinly veiled shot at Ryder’s character. Oh boy, here come the yucks! Socially awkward toast time that results in hilarity! But it never happens, the toast is unfunny and makes Ronnie look like a total asshole. I’m not even sure it was SUPPOSED to be funny. And much like earlier, Ronnie is in such a tunnel vision mode about this whole Geneva cheating on Nick thing that he fails to see how making a huge uncomfortable toast at her parents anniversary will upset Beth. There is no consistency with these characters. We can’t even feel a full dose of sympathy for poor Nick. It turns out he’s going to a massage parlor once a week to enjoy a happy ending while at the same time having not touched Winona Ryder in months! What the deuce! First of all, why create some reason to support Geneva when 10 minutes ago she was threatening to fake cry and basically accuse Ronnie of sexual assault he never did. She’s an evil bitch we get it…but oh, he’s also kind of a dick? Who am I rooting for there then? (The answer to that is Beth, Jennifer Connelly’s character. She’s the only person in this movie whose actions follow any sort of normalcy. She is of course given very little screen time.) Second, and this is key….it’s Kevin James. His character is an overweight and unfunny engine designer who is married to WINONA RYDER. But screw that, instead of having sex with my stone cold fox of a wife, I’m going to hit a massage parlor where nobody speaks English and drive her into the arms of Channing Tatum. I know, it’s a movie. It still doesn’t make sense.
I’m not quite sure where this went off the rails. At its core, The Dilemma is a half comedy, which isn’t very funny, and a half drama, with characters not acting in any sort of relatable way at all. When Ronnie FINALLY tells the truth and all is revealed, Ryder ditches her plan to try to destroy he and Nick’s friendship and instead just runs off, never to be seen again. Nick’s own questionable marriage practices are forgotten and never explained. In the comedy world that would be ok. But the film treats the relationship issue with such unexpected drama that I was left not sure how to feel about any of the characters involved. The Dilemma is not a TERRIBLE movie. It just follows no internal logic and is unfunny. It’s almost entirely forgettable. Given the level of talent involved in making it, it’s a real disappointment.
Filed under: Movies | Tagged: Apollo 13, Channing Tatum, Elrood, evil Winona Ryder, Frost/Nixon, happy ending, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin James, Ron Howard, slick talkign salesman, The Dilemma, Vince Vaugh, waste of talent, Winona Ryder |