Firth, Blunt Wasted in Clichéd Arthur Newman
- Friday, May 03, 2013
DVD Release Date: September 3, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: April 26, 2013 (limited)
Rating: R (sexual content, language and brief drug use)
Run Time: 101 min.
Director: Dane Ariola
Cast: Emily Blunt, Colin Firth, Anne Heche, Kristin Lehman, Lucas Hedgers, David Andrews
What’s usually great about independent cinema is that filmmakers have the freedom to follow their own rules. But with Arthur Newman, a cookie cutter tale of two dysfunctional people who try to escape their own dreadful existence by assuming someone else’s identity, there’s little originality or authenticity. This is a slow, self-conscious, offbeat story.
In what's ultimately a waste of two very likeable actors, Emily Blunt (Looper) and Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), Arthur Newman overpromises and underdelivers right from the start: Firth, indie make-under aside, still looks far too regal to play a guy as hum-drum as Wallace Avery.
A perpetually bored floor manager for FedEx in Florida, Wallace and his girlfriend (Anne Heche, Cedar Rapids) barely talk during a lunch of street cart hot dogs (practically the only thing he’s passionate about). The scene underscores how lame his life is. More pathetic, Wallace is a bit of a stalker, using binoculars to peek into the home of his ex-wife and teenage son. His son confronts him about his peeping when Wallace shows up with a gift for him the next day. Needless to say, the conversation doesn’t go well.
Despite feeling like a failure, Wallace has a plan in place. After paying $3,000 for the name of someone who died a few years ago - Arthur Newman - Wallace decides to fake his own death during an impromptu camping trip. After that, he’ll move to Terre Haute, Indiana, where he has a standing offer to become a golf pro.
While there’s a point of resonance in Wallace/Arthur’s journey (who hasn’t wondered what it would be like to be someone else, particularly when life is going badly?), it’s the wacky detours the story takes that simply lack believability. I mean, how convenient is it that Arthur meets someone else with a sad life who’s traveling under a fake moniker, too?
In a meeting that’s anything but cute, Arthur meets Mike (Blunt), short for Michaela (her real name, however, is Charlotte), in the parking lot of his seedy hotel. Mike is clearly high on something and behind the wheel of a car she’s stolen, so Arthur decides he has to take her to a nearby hospital. But the simple act of doing a good deed apparently wasn’t enough for Arthur, so before long he invites Mike to join him on his road trip to Terre Haute. First, though, they break into an elderly couple’s home, dress up in their clothes and have sex.
That’s the kind of movie we’re watching here, folks. These damaged characters are so thinly drawn that the filmmakers have to resort to over-the-top shenanigans that don’t contribute anything to the bottom line, emotionally or otherwise. While it’s not a stretch to believe that two damaged souls might find solace in each other, it’s that these two people, Arthur and Mike, don’t feel like people at all. We know so little about them that it’s tough to get invested in their plight.
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