Are You Here
When Seth Macfarlane announced he was going to make his transition from TV to film, responses from some were apprehensive. Can he make that smooth transition? Ted, at least, proved that he could. The same went for Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Firefly creator Joss Whedon in 2012 when he released Avengers Assemble and Cabin in the Woods, both of which were met with critical and commercial success. So in the current Golden Age of Television, one would expect Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner to have equal success in his cinematic feature length debut Are You Here (or You Are Here), but alas, the precise opposite is the result.
Ben Baker (Zach Galifianakis), a hippie stoner, returns to his hometown along with his childhood friend, Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson), a local TV weatherman, for his father’s funeral. It transpires that Ben inherits a vast fortune, much to the annoyance of his hardworking, financially driven sister, Terry (Amy Poehler), who believes this is a conspiracy against her perpetrated by their father’s significantly younger spouse Angela (Laura Ramsey).
Dallas’ sentimental opening scene, telling a string of attractive ladies to live life to the full, sets in motion the film’s ham-fisted approach to its themes. It lays it out to ensure there’s little ambiguity or depth, and this trait permeates throughout. As themes come to light, they’re conveyed with clichéd rhetoric and banal sentimentality. To make matters worse, the characters seem to be infected: Dallas is afraid of commitment but falls for Angela (hardly a spoiler, unless you’ve never seen a film before); Ben is an environmentalist and suffers from bipolar disorder, but then matures, which is shoehorned into the narrative; Terry is bitter and money-driven, and Angela is a kind Earth Mother figure. In short, the movie’s predictable plot and its simplification of ideas makes it fall significantly short.
Furthermore, this comedy has far too many set pieces that either fall flat or go nowhere. The shots allow space for the audience to laugh, but they’re never earned, coming either from nowhere or with minimal build-up. This, in conjunction with simplified characters, predictable plot and clumsy themes of love, family and environmentalism, makes the overall experience nauseating and uncomfortably numb.
Are You Here is released on nationwide 2nd January 2015.
Watch the trailer for Are You Here here: