DIR: Ron Howard • WRI: Allan Loeb • PRO: Brian Grazer, Vince Vaughn • DOP: Salvatore Totino • ED: Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill• DES: Daniel B. Clancy • CAST: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly
Vince Vaughan looks wrecked. It’s sad watching him in The Dilemma dragging his bloated corpse-like body around, his huffing, breathless delivery killing his lines – not that they don’t deserve it. The Dilemma has caused a bit of a stir in the States over its use of the word ‘gay’ as a pejorative. True to the form of these things, the speech where the word is used is about the only decent thing in this collection of tired routines and irritating characters.
Ronny (Vaughan) and Nick (Kevin James) are best friends. They build engines together and have an important meeting with General Motors in a few days. So when Ronny sees Nick’s wife (Winona Ryder) kissing another man (Channing Tatum) he can’t decide whether to tell him or not. An episode of Fraiser could – and did – deal with the same idea funnier, more honestly and in a quarter of the running time. But this doesn’t even have enough material for a 25-minute TV episode. As plot complications and comedy characters are thrown into the mix you get a sense of the desperation of filmmakers who found that what they had (standard comedy fallbacks like the inappropriate speech to disapproving parents or slapstick while spying on cheating couple) wasn’t enough fill up the running time. But when a film is two hours long, as this is, they can’t even have that excuse for putting out dross like this.
At first it seemed like this was going to be yet another comedy with a stubbornly straight male view of relationships, but in fact no one in this film behaves like a real person. Every relationship is contrived and unconvincing, especially the cynical attempt at bromance. Jennifer Connolly plays Ronny’s girlfriend, Beth. She’s intelligent, is friends with Nick and his wife, and Ronny wants to marry her. And yet he never tells her what’s going on. We’re never told why, because the writers clearly don’t know why, except that if he did there wouldn‘t be a movie. This film is a concept without a screenplay. Instead of dialogue the script consists of speeches (mostly extended metaphors about ice-cream or American football) that clearly had the filmmakers splitting their sides, but fall flat on screen. And it follows the worst rule of comedy that states that when one person is talking no amount of interruptions can stop them so everyone else is forced to sit and listen, helplessly, like defendants at a show-trial. I felt much the same.