Mad Men show runner Matthew Weiner has finally made his feature film debut with You Are Here. Starring Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Poehler and Laura Ramsey, the film tells the story of two stoner friends whose lives change when one of them inherits a fortune. Read my review after the jump.
For a first time director, this is a good film. But Weiner has made a name on TV and I have to say I had higher expectations for this one. You Are Here wrestles between being a buddy comedy and a film on mental illness, with family troubles thrown in for fun. And while it is funny, ultimately the laughs could only carry this movie so far.
The biggest problem with the movie is the script, which is surprising considering Weiner has been working on it for so long. The characters speak in too many metaphors and cliches, which gets very distracting. All of the characters have their own struggles, but most of their conversations with each other drag on with meaningless wise words.
The best-written character, and best performance, is easily given by Galifianakis as Ben. He is really the only character who grows up and over comes his demons and Galifianakis probably gives his best acting performance in the process. Ben is a vegan who wants to change the world, but in reality he suffers from a mental illness. But he fights the illness and gets better, providing a very rewarding conclusion for the character.
Owen Wilson plays Steve, who is to be blunt, an ass-hole. Steve thinks he is an awesome guy who can do whatever he wants, when really he is a broke addict who has nothing to live for. I think the point of the movie is for Steve to realize he has just as many problems has his friend Ben, but that doesn’t really happen. There is one scene involving a chicken that almost changes this, but shortly after, Steve goes back to hookers and weed and his growth is thrown out the window. And while he is eventually forgiven for his actions, I personally didn’t think he was deserving of that.
Amy Poehler plays Ben’s sister who is angry at everyone. But she is given a little back story, with her high emotions coming from not being able to have children. She gives a good performance but it is a supporting role that doesn’t require much. The character doesn’t go through any major changes but adds an interesting element to the relationship between Ben and Steve so I have no complaints.
The last major role is Laura Ramsey as Angela, who was married to Ben’s dead dad but is the same age as the main cast. She is a very weird character who both cares for and woos the two friends. She is at first very tough on Steve but comes around for no reason at all. And she does something very strange to Ben that is played off as helping him but in the real world would consider hurting him. All in all, a strange character.
Weiner was at my screening of this movie and in the Q & A afterwards, he said this script has been in development for over 10 years. It wasn’t the worst script ever, and there were jokes that I laughed at, but in the end there were problems with the movie that brought it down. I like the idea of comedies with deeper meanings, but if the characters don’t fully grow up or change, it let’s down the whole movie. I like Weiner’s work on Mad Men and hope he continues to make movies, but You Are Here was a disappointment.