Film Review: Almost Friends

Just what we need right now: a comedy about a stalker! Thank you, Jake Goldberger, an auteur for our times.
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As if it wasn’t bad enough that we are now hearing daily accusations against men for aggressive misconduct, here comes writer-director Jake Goldberger’s wholly clueless Almost Friends. Its protagonist, Charlie (Freddie Highmore), is just a guy who can’t take no for an answer, especially when it comes to Amber (lush-lipped Odeya Rush, doing the best she can under the circumstances), whom he’s crushed on since high school. She’s got a boyfriend (Taylor John Smith, the requisite WASP-y jock movie nemesis) and a life of her own, but that doesn’t stop Charlie, still living at home with his mother (Marg Helgenberger, overdoing it), from stalking her incessantly at the coffee shop where she works as a barista.

His obsession, which only intensifies the more Amber rebuffs him, is, among other things, an escape for this twenty-something loser from his thwarted dream to become a top chef, his tiresome job at a movie theatre, and his estranged ne’er-do-well dad (Christopher Meloni) who has unfortunately just resurfaced.

This just might have worked had Highmore possessed the kind of charisma and even heroic gravitas displayed by Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate or John Cusack in Say Anything. Sadly, he doesn’t, and instead of those qualities substitutes the kind of generic junior Catskills comedian adorableness former child actors pull off in their sleep, setting your teeth on edge. And one can only imagine what career desperation drove actors like Meloni, Helgenberger and Haley Joel Osment, who plays Charlie’s nudgingly wisecracking bestie, to become involved in this mess. The film haplessly relies on a couple of Big Secrets to stoke dramatic interest, but when they come, a “Meh” reaction is all you feel.

This dull, abysmally slow romcom, originally titled Holding Pattern (alluring, eh?), was pretty much living up to its title, sitting on the shelf for two years before Highmore landed the hit TV series “The Good Doctor,” which had to have been the incentive for releasing this flop. It has exactly one good line, when Charlie tells a confidante, played by Rita Volk, “Our mothers met in Lamaze class—it’s an eternal damnation kind of thing.”

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