Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Answers to Nothing

An overlong bunch of intertwining stories, none of which is worth the viewer’s time.

Dec 1, 2011

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1295558-Answers_Nothing_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

We’re in serious Crash/Magnolia/Short Cuts territory with Answers to Nothing, as writer-director Matthew Leutwyler concocts one of those interwoven webs of disparate Los Angeles lives. A little girl has gone missing, and among the various suspects police detective Frankie (Julie Benz) has her eye on is a weird schoolteacher, Carter (Mark Kelly), into fantasy online gaming, who points the finger at his neighbor, Beckworth (Greg Germann). Another neighbor, Jerry (Erik Palladino), who is training to be a cop, also gets involved.

Ryan (Dane Cook) is a therapist, unhappily married to Kate (Elizabeth Mitchell), who yearns for a child and is unaware of hubby’s affair with musician Tara (Aja Volkman). Ryan’s mother (Barbara Hershey) adds more to his plate with her issues involving his father, who deserted her. Ryan’s client Allegra (Kali Hawk) writes for television and, although African-American, hates black people, something she tells a shocked new romantic interest (Zach Gilford). Then there’s Drew (Miranda Bailey), a recovering alcoholic fighting a custody battle over her brother (Vincent Ventresca), brain-dead after an accident in which she was involved.

Got all that? This plethora of characters may make you yearn for the good old days of Grand Hotel, when such a conglomeration was easier to keep track of, not to mention a helluva lot more alluring. Such is Leutwyler’s strained direction, which suffers from every handheld, desaturated-color-palette, woozily indulgent crime of indie cinema, and his forced, simplistic writing, that you watch all these confused folk in a state of complete detachment. You leave each character with a certain relief, which is only replaced by the dread of encountering the next one’s dreary, unoriginal problems. And by this point there really should be a ban on missing-child plot devices. It’s so tired and shamefully easy; almost as if to prove the point, Leutwyler doesn’t ever show the poor, lost kid—even at the end, when she is rescued.

The material is so monotonously shoddy that the actors—including Hershey, who is so face-lifted that she looks more like Cook’s younger sister than his mother—sink without a trace, despite all their sweating and screaming. After being fellated by Tara, Ryan asks her to spit out his sperm, so he can surreptitiously take it to his baby doctor. It’s sick, outrageous and kind of funny, the very thing you’d expect from Cook, but the fact remains that this comedic wild man is singularly unconvincing playing a therapist, of all things. Leutwyler likes to go for facile shock, like the character of Allegra, whatever the hell we are supposed to make of her. Allegra’s hang-up is a risky idea to begin with, but—like so much else here—Leutwyler seems incapable of properly delineating or developing it, and will likely offend many.


Film Review: Answers to Nothing

An overlong bunch of intertwining stories, none of which is worth the viewer’s time.

Dec 1, 2011

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1295558-Answers_Nothing_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

We’re in serious Crash/Magnolia/Short Cuts territory with Answers to Nothing, as writer-director Matthew Leutwyler concocts one of those interwoven webs of disparate Los Angeles lives. A little girl has gone missing, and among the various suspects police detective Frankie (Julie Benz) has her eye on is a weird schoolteacher, Carter (Mark Kelly), into fantasy online gaming, who points the finger at his neighbor, Beckworth (Greg Germann). Another neighbor, Jerry (Erik Palladino), who is training to be a cop, also gets involved.

Ryan (Dane Cook) is a therapist, unhappily married to Kate (Elizabeth Mitchell), who yearns for a child and is unaware of hubby’s affair with musician Tara (Aja Volkman). Ryan’s mother (Barbara Hershey) adds more to his plate with her issues involving his father, who deserted her. Ryan’s client Allegra (Kali Hawk) writes for television and, although African-American, hates black people, something she tells a shocked new romantic interest (Zach Gilford). Then there’s Drew (Miranda Bailey), a recovering alcoholic fighting a custody battle over her brother (Vincent Ventresca), brain-dead after an accident in which she was involved.

Got all that? This plethora of characters may make you yearn for the good old days of Grand Hotel, when such a conglomeration was easier to keep track of, not to mention a helluva lot more alluring. Such is Leutwyler’s strained direction, which suffers from every handheld, desaturated-color-palette, woozily indulgent crime of indie cinema, and his forced, simplistic writing, that you watch all these confused folk in a state of complete detachment. You leave each character with a certain relief, which is only replaced by the dread of encountering the next one’s dreary, unoriginal problems. And by this point there really should be a ban on missing-child plot devices. It’s so tired and shamefully easy; almost as if to prove the point, Leutwyler doesn’t ever show the poor, lost kid—even at the end, when she is rescued.

The material is so monotonously shoddy that the actors—including Hershey, who is so face-lifted that she looks more like Cook’s younger sister than his mother—sink without a trace, despite all their sweating and screaming. After being fellated by Tara, Ryan asks her to spit out his sperm, so he can surreptitiously take it to his baby doctor. It’s sick, outrageous and kind of funny, the very thing you’d expect from Cook, but the fact remains that this comedic wild man is singularly unconvincing playing a therapist, of all things. Leutwyler likes to go for facile shock, like the character of Allegra, whatever the hell we are supposed to make of her. Allegra’s hang-up is a risky idea to begin with, but—like so much else here—Leutwyler seems incapable of properly delineating or developing it, and will likely offend many.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Momo
Film Review: Letter to Momo

Literally beset by goblins, this strained animated effort should have concentrated on the human elements of its story rather than the supernatural. More »

A Master Builder
Film Review: A Master Builder

A personal project which should have stayed personal, this turgid yet flat Ibsen adaptation is third-time unlucky for Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory. More »

Fanny
Film Review: Fanny

"Classic" is a word all too casually bandied about, but for Daniel Auteuil's screen adaptation of this beloved French trilogy it is completely apropos. More »

Alive Inside
Film Review: Alive Inside

Incredibly moving and powerful documentary about combatting Alzheimer's with music. Without the use of a single CGI effect, you see literal miracles happening here. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sex Tape review
Film Review: Sex Tape

Couple's homemade porn circulates on the web in an R-rated comedy that wastes the talents of its stars. More »

The Purge: Anarchy
Film Review: The Purge: Anarchy

A modest but noticeable improvement on its predecessor, The Purge: Anarchy offers a more effective—if still far from ideal—realization of the series' killer premise. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here