Starring: Owen Wilson, Zach Galifiniakis, Amy Poehler, Laura Ramsey, Edward Herrmann, Paul Schulze, Alana De La Garza, Lauren Lapkus
Directed by: Matthew Weiner
Synopsis: Two childhood best friends embark on a road trip back to their hometown after one of them learns he has inherited a large sum of money from his recently deceased estranged father.
This is one peculiar movie all things told. Much like Galifiniakis’ character Ben, it is a film that is schizophrenic to say the least. It starts as one thing and ends up as another.
What does a film featuring Owen Wilson, Zach Galifiniakis and Amy Poehler say to you? It says comedy, right? When you start watching the first fifteen to twenty minutes and it basically involves Owen and Zach smoking pot and going on a road trip, what does this say to you? It’s buddy road-movie. Right? Well, this is the film’s main problem, it isn’t really that movie at all. Before you know it the comedy, largely, has been left behind and we are dealing with one man’s battle with a bipolar disorder. Except, because we still think it’s a comedy of sorts, it just feels a bit insensitive.
It gets weirder when you realise the man responsible for Are You Here is none other than Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. His feature debut shows none of the classiness of his hit TV show and I can’t imagine anyone would have guessed he had a hand in this. My guess, and it is a guess as I’m lazy and haven’t done any research, is that the film probably got butchered in the editing suite. It certainly doesn’t seem to make a great deal of sense at times.
The story is that pals Wilson (a successful TV weather man) and Galifinakis (a stay at home stoner) go on a trip back home after Galifiniakis’ father dies and leaves him loads of money. The rest of the family, in particular Amy Poehler, aren’t happy about this due to her brother’s ‘mental health issues’. Thrown in to the mix is also their father’s youthful and attractive widow (Laura Ramsey), who becomes something of an object of desire for Owen Wilson.
To be fair, the actors do OK with what they have. I’m not sure they probably even knew what kind of film they were supposed to be making (certainly Wilson and Poehler). Galifiniakis pulls out his ‘Truman Show’ effort and does a pretty good job, going even as far as shaving off his trademark beard. But whilst his section of the story moved on to straight out mental illness drama, Wilson’s character still seemed stuck in the comedy section of the movie.
Ultimately though, the comedy wasn’t overly funny, and the drama was a big heavy handed (seriously, the speed with which Galifiniakis went from mentally ill to seeing clearly was incredible). It’s a shame that a decent cast and a decent writer (and in this case director) weren’t able to cobble something together a bit better than Are You Here. It has some moment’s, like Galifiniaki’s character, of real clarity, but otherwise is a bit of a mess.