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Firth, Blunt Wasted in Clichéd Arthur Newman

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2013 5 May
  • COMMENTS
Firth, Blunt Wasted in Clichéd <i>Arthur Newman</i>

DVD Release Date: September 3, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: April 26, 2013 (limited)
Rating: R (sexual content, language and brief drug use)
Genre: Drama
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.

Firth and Blunt probably did the best with what they had to work with (although their American accents could each use some work), but once Arthur and Mike cross the line from friends to lovers there’s a definite ick factor (perhaps it’s their significant age difference) that’s nearly impossible to get past. That, along with a story that fails to ignite on any level, makes Arthur Newman nothing more than an indie cliché.

Sure, the mood and setting are appropriately depressing, and the characters make their best attempts at waxing philosophical, but no one will confuse Arthur Newman for great art anytime soon. It's more of a hot mess.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking. A character nearly overdoses on morphine-laced cough syrup. Arthur and Mike borrow someone’s homemade pipe to smoke pot.
  • Language/Profanity: A handful of f-words. God and Jesus’s names are both misused once. A smattering of other profanity including sh--, as-, he-- and da--.
  • Sex/Nudity: A hotel desk clerk is watching pornography, and there’s explicit sounds and movements. There’s also a quick close-up of the man and woman having sex (her naked breasts are visible). Arthur tells the clerk that’s not appropriate viewing in public, but he keeps the video going nonetheless. Arthur and Mike have sex on several occasions, some scenes are more explicit than others. One has rear female nudity, and in another, oral sex is implied.
  • Violence: A man nearly chokes on a hot dog.  Arthur’s attempts to resuscitate a man who had a seizure are unsuccessful—and he dies. A car window is broken by an angry man, and he threatens Mike.

Christa Banister is an author and full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the MeddlersBased in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.

Publication date: May 3, 2013