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dir Ellie Kanner
scr David Congalton
prd Ellie Kanner, Hal Schwartz
with Chris Klein, Kaley Cuoco, Dennis Farina, Dylan Walsh, Teri Polo, Jonathan Bennett, Jonathan Banks, Meagen Fay, Tricia Helfer, Diane Robin, Daniel Riordan, Robb Skyler
release US 18.Apr.14, UK May.14
The write stuff: Klein and Cuoco
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
This Office-style mock documentary about a writing group is a bundle of witty stream-of-consciousness dialog. It's also a sweet romantic-comedy in which most of the humour stems from the characters' ignorance. So even if most of these people are annoying idiots, there's enough charm make their journey entertaining.
Overachievers Alan and Colette (Walsh and Polo) live in their dream house, where they host a writing group for nice guy Henry (Klein), sunshiny airhead Hannah (Cuoco), bristly hard-man John (Farina) and poor-but-hot William (Bennett). They're all enjoying their relentless failure when Hannah's career suddenly takes off, sparking a variety of awkward reactions from jealousy to one-upmanship. Henry feels even more inadequate than before, while John opts to beat her to print by self-publishing his novel, which doesn't go well. And the relationships between them implode.
The title is the first joke, as these characters seem to aspire to write unpublished novels. John says that everything he learned about writing can be summed up in two words: Tom Clancy. Henry finds inspiration in his work as a pizza delivery boy and carpet cleaner. He's also got a crush on Hannah, who doesn't seem to have ever read a book. William agonises over every word, so has only ever written a few pages. And Colette and Alan have more issues than seem humanly possible.
The cast is terrific at improvised dialog, although they try a little too hard to make their characters relentlessly pathetic, continually cracking obvious jokes and revealing deep personality flaws. Klein and Cuoco come across as the only genuine people in the film, and they also generate some engaging chemistry between them. Their rom-com plot is the only thing that really holds our attention, because everything else is pretty ridiculous.
Intriguingly, once Hannah becomes a published novelist with an agent and a movie deal, everyone else is afraid to critique her work, clearly intimidated by her success. Which gives the film a chance to make a comment about the fickle nature of fame. Still, most of the members of the group aren't terribly credible. At least Henry is intelligent, even if he's blocked, while Hannah is likably hapless. But the filmmakers don't seem to know what to do with William, a wannabe who surprises everyone by speaking the truth.
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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