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Matthew Weiner, Where Are You?

August 25, 2014

are_you_here

Tonight, Matthew Weiner will be on top of the TV world at the Emmys, where his AMC drama Mad Men will be gunning for its fourth Best Drama award. Ok, so it probably won’t win, but still, he’ll get a much warmer welcome by the TV Academy than he did at the movies this weekend: Are You Here, the first film he wrote and directed, was quietly dumped into a handful of theaters and released simultaneously on VOD. Oh, and it earned a whopping 8 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

What went wrong? More like, what didn’t go wrong? Weiner seems to be continuing to follow in the footsteps—or in this case, missteps—of his mentor, The Sopranos‘ David Chase, who followed up his groundbreaking TV drama with an underwhelming movie debut, Not Fade Away (which did fade away, and quickly, at the box office). Are You Here isn’t just missing a question mark at the end of its title. It’s missing a plot, two-dimensional characters, a well-chosen cast, a consistent tone, and just about everything else.

Owen Wilson and Zach Gailfianakis star as Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis. No, they don’t play themselves, they just play the same characters they always play: Wilson’s a peevish narcissist and Galifianakis is a mentally unstable man-child. They take a road trip together—because we haven’t seen enough Galifianakis road-trip movies after three Hangovers and Due Date—when Zach’s dad dies and leaves him a large portion of his estate. That leads to a squabble with Zach’s snotty sister, played by Amy Poehler, who at least is doing something different than what we usually see out of her. Unfortunately, what she’s doing isn’t interesting, or funny, or anything.

Is this supposed to be a comedy? It’s not amusing. A drama? It’s impossible to take seriously. A rom-com? Maybe. Both Galifianakis and Wilson sleep with Zach’s young stepmom, played by the bland Laura Ramsey, aka Joy from Mad Men‘s “Jet Set” episode. She’s only one of several nubile actresses who appear nude, including Law & Order alum Alana de la Garza, who’s wasted as the anchorwoman at the Annapolis, Maryland, TV station where Wilson’s Steve Dallas is the weatherman. Unfortunately, Galifianakis also bares all, and I’m not just talking about shaving his trademark beard.

Weiner also recruits a few Sopranos alums, like Paul “Father Phil” Schulze as the TV station’s news director, and Peter “Dr. Melfi’s shrink” Bogdanovich as a judge who rules in the family’s inheritance case. But even a priest and a shrink couldn’t save this misguided script. The film’s tagline, allegedly about friendship, is “There’s nothing in it for anybody.” Which pretty much describes the movie as well. In other words: Matthew Weiner, don’t quit your day job… Oops, too late!

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