Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 2011. Big Beach Films, Likely Story, The Weinstein Company, Yuk Films. Story by Jesse Peretz, Evgenia Peretz, David Schisgall, Screenplay by Evgenia Peretz, David Schisgall. Cinematography by Yaron Orbach. Produced by Anthony Bregman, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub. Music by Eric D. Johnson, Nathan Larson. Production Design by Inbal Weinberg. Costume Design by Christopher Peterson. Film Editing by Jacob Craycroft, Andrew Mondshein.
Paul Rudd plays a good-hearted, almost simple-minded hippie whose pure faith in human nature finds him selling weed to a cop and getting himself thrown into prison for a number of months. When he gets out, his place on his commune has been replaced, his girlfriend doesn’t want him around and, most painful, she won’t let him have his dog back. Stuck without alternatives, he heads to the Big Apple and shacks up with his sisters, one a tight-ass journalist (Elizabeth Banks), one a struggling stand-up comedienne (Zooey Deschanel) and the other a new mom (Emily Mortimer) trying to keep it together with her pompous husband (Steve Coogan). Rudd throws all their lives into complete disarray, thoroughly impractical and exasperating and possessing a terrible habit of spilling all their secrets to each other. Once they spend enough time with him, they realize the possibility that his inability to keep things to himself also forces them to improve their lives, and that’s where the heartwarming aspect of this highly enjoyable comedy kicks in. It’s a weird, uncomfortable blend of elements that never fully reconcile: director Jesse Peretz wants just as much to make a mellow, hip indie film as he does a raucous comedy in the vein of Rudd’s previous hits Role Models and I Love You, Man, with characters that reach in and touch you somewhere deep (Mortimer is brilliant), while others come across as nasty stereotypes (Kathryn Hahn‘s hippie girlfriend is a one-note joke). It might be a grandly themed story about family, or it might just be about one man and his dog, it’s hard to decide, but it does boil down to an ending that pushes the limits of contrivance. There’s no regret in sitting through it, though, particularly because of the performances; while Banks gives her usual cardboard, painfully unfelt turn, Deschanel is highly appealing and Rudd never fails to be lovable, while Shirley Knight is terrific as their patient mother and Rashida Jones adds a bit of hilarity as Deschanel’s spritely girlfriend.