comedy with no laughs. A drama disconnected from any known reality.
It’s tempting to diagnose “Are You Here” with schizophrenic genre
disorder. But that just sounds like an excuse to cover up what it
really is, an unmitigated mess that feels the need to present yet more
iterations of that tired Hollywood species known as man-child
it tries to be a “Broadcast News”-style comedy, with Owen Wilson as the
type of smarmy philandering moocher he has done countless times before.
The difference here is that he is a local TV weatherman in Annapolis,
Md., who makes Bill Murray’s on-air forecaster in “Groundhog Day” seem
like a paragon of repeated virtue.
Steve Dallas is a regular one-man rodeo all right—full of bull and
proud of it. He has a constant need to have a potential bed partner at
the ready at all time—be it co-worker, casual pickup or prostitute. He
also has a propensity to peep at his shapely across-the-way neighbor as
she disrobes in front of her windows each night, and not in a Jimmy
Stewart non-creepy way. Then there is his charming habit of pretending
to be able to pay the bill with his worthless credit cards and his
constant use of mind-altering substances even on the job.
times, “Are You Here” appears to be a portrait of a dysfunctional
family in the vein of “August: Osage County” when Steve’s best—and
seemingly only—friend, Ben, learns that his father has died and the
funeral requires a road trip to rural Pennsylvania. To mention that this
hirsute near-hermit, manic-depressive idealist and fellow pothead
residing in a mobile shack whose interior decorator was obviously the
Unabomber is played by Zach Galifianakis is akin to stating the
is even a hint of “Witness,” as Amish folk occasionally materialize and
then quickly take their leave in a possible attempt to add some
existential folksiness to the over-reaching muddle that unfolds
onscreen. An enveloping plot of sorts exists, one that involves the ever-popular contested last will and testament, but it struggles to tie the overload of random themes together.
most astonishing fact about “Are You Here” is not the casual insertion
of a pseudo-incestuous sex scene that no sane person would ever want to
see. Nor that there is an actual chicken running around with its head
cut off at some point. Or even that a talent so above this enterprise as
Amy Poehler agreed to play Ben’s sister, a miserable shrew defined by
her harsh eyeliner and seething dissatisfaction tied to her
inability to have children.
the most shocking thing is that Matthew Weiner is the perpetrator
behind this sad enterprise. It took the much-lauded creator of TV’s “Mad
Men” and invaluable contributor to “The Sopranos” eight years to bring
this foolhardy venture to theaters. “Are You Here” is not his actual
feature debut—that would be a tiny 1996 effort titled “What Do You Do
All Day?”—but it’s the first to see the light of day. As a frustrated
would-be movie director, it feels as if he’s dumped every brainstorm he
ever had on the screen, including a prominent farmhouse kitchen sink,
with little desire for self-editing.
have to give credit to Weiner for one achievement: He makes some sharp
casting choices among his supporting ranks. He has obviously watched
series other than his own, considering that he is smart enough to hire
Paul Schulze, so good as pharmacist Eddie on “Nurse Jackie,” as Wilson’s
boss and Lauren Lapkus, the female prison guard Suzanne on “Orange Is
the New Black,” as his fawning co-worker. But if Matthew Weiner weren’t
Matthew Weiner, there would be no way this script would attract the
likes of director Peter Bogdanovich (who also did “The Sopranos”) as a
judge and Edward Herrmann as Ben’s therapist or convince Jenna Fischer
of “The Office” to show up in the final 10 minutes or so in a nothing
Weiner deserved this chance. Maybe he has gotten it out of his system.
But maybe he should be more concerned about putting together a
satisfying finale for “Mad Men” next spring (he already told “Rolling
Stone” he is anticipating mixed reviews) rather than tilting at such a
flimsy windmill of a movie.