"That's the thing about friendship - it's a lot rarer than love; there's nothing in it for anybody."
I feel sorry for the Matthew Weiner fans out there who are approaching his first feature film basically for their love of Mad Men because there isn't anything here for anybody. The creator of the successful HBO series seems lost in his intentions with this film. The trailers are selling this film as a comedy and we'd expect that considering the fact it stars Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, and Amy Poehler, all extremely hilarious comedic actors. But despite the fact that the first fifteen or so minutes begin as your average comedy, it ends up taking a rather unconventional and bizarre path. It would be much more appropriate to classify this film as a drama which tries to study the effects of mental illness, although it fails to do so. There are few films who have been able to pull it off (the most recent that comes to mind is David O. Russell's Silver Lining Playbook) because it is such a sensitive and reserved area. This film never really decides what it wants to be and the story takes unexpected directions (and I say this in a negative way). Nothing really makes sense and the characters never feel authentic; some of the decisions they make are confounding and disturbing. The decisions they make don't make sense at all, but the story goes on as if everything is perfectly normal and expects us to believe it. The biggest problem with Are You Here is that it lacks identity, it doesn't know what direction to take after establishing the characters and the premise. The tone of this film is so strange that it will engage very few audiences and I'm not one of them. This is neither a bromance nor a romantic comedy nor a serious attempt at examining mental illness, although at times the film seems to try to be all these things. It adds up to nothing. The greatest thing about Are You Here ended up being Galifianakis' shaved beard.
There was a time in the past when only seeing Owen Wilson on screen would tear me up no matter what, but his recent films haven't resonated with me so well and I haven't found him as funny as I once did. I am sure he will bounce back soon, but for now I really don't have high expectations for his films. Galifianakis has been either hit or miss with me and he seems to play a similar character in most of his films. I'm not a huge fan of Amy Poehler unless she is working alongside Tina Fey. She is funny, but in a more serious role she feels completely miscast. Laura Ramsey was beautiful, but her hippie character had no personality and was perhaps the weakest character in the film whose motivations are never understood. As much as I admire these actors, I really can't think of one performance in this film that actually worked. There is no memorable comedic moment and there isn't anything worth examining about mental illness here either. If the film was trying to be a dramedy it failed completely because it never managed to do either. If you don't believe me go and see it for yourself, but at least I tried to warn you!