Saturday, August 23, 2014

Are You Here: Movie Review

Here, there, life is everywhere.
Are You Here is a light-hearted drama about some of life’s heavier themes – death, love, friendship, moving on and what it all means, and then offers some interesting laughs at the strangest times. Whatever you thought this film was supposed to be, it’s not that. It is a comedy, but hardly the road trip comedy it's advertised as. It's funny and clever, and it most certainly is a very odd look at life after loss. 2013

Directed by: Matthew Weiner

Screenplay by: Matthew Weiner

Starring: Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson

It is funny, but it’s a very subdued, slow-paced humour with a surprising amount of insight. It's not the type of comedy you would expect Galifianakis and Wilson to deliver, and yet, they’re playing the types of characters you have come to know them as. Ben (Zach Galifianakis) is a man-child who lives so far inside is own head and outside of society that all he can do is live on his friend’s couch and get high. Steve (Owen Wilson) is his best friend, and he loves the life he lives – he pretends he’s successful at picking up women, he pretends his job is important and he pretends that he has it all figured out. They both live in their own world – in Ben’s, it’s a world that nobody else understands, and for Steve, he’s at the center of it all. Then Ben’s father dies and his world comes crashing down.

Then the “road trip” joke comes and it’s pretty funny so I won’t spoil it for you, and then we meet Ben’s family. His step-mother is a woman the same age as him; Angela (Laura Ramsey) is a hippie that wears white to the funeral and as such, lives in her own world. Ben’s sister Terri (Amy Poehler) is a married, hard-working, put-together woman that is financially responsible and stable and is trying to have her own family. She lives in the real world, but none of the other characters do, so she ends up essentially in her own world. There are more great jokes at the reading of the will, further establishing the characters and developing this oddly quirky and yet realistic approach to life by people that live on the outskirts of society.

The film presents ideas about the country life versus the city life, what it means to grow up, and what exactly is it that society expects of us? Ben has become convinced that his father’s house and farmland is a perfect location to house his own institution – one where people can get back in touch with nature. One minute he is writing out his philosophical business plan and the next he’s acting on his – not just half-baked, but completely unbaked – ideas. Meanwhile Steve is questioning the purpose of friendship and then he falls in love.

Photos courtesy of VVS Films.
The film can drag on when we get into Steve’s women and relationships; none of them are interesting and the humour is even harder to find. But then there’s actually a clever romantic twist that I didn’t see coming and the existential themes once again team up with the comedy and we get this oddly quirky and yet realistic comedy about life.

Are You Here really is a comedy even though the humour can seem hidden and off-point while you try to get established in these personal worlds that all exist for the sole purpose of getting through life and then they start questioning what the point of life is. But these characters are well written and are just slightly extreme versions of people from real-life – exactly the type of characters that are meant for movies like this. It’s a trip for sure – sometimes slow, usually very odd, sometimes funny and usually interesting.
Best Lesser-known of 2014