EDITOR’S NOTE: This review was originally published as part of indieWIRE’s coverage of the Sundance Film Festival. “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men” opens in theaters this Friday.
An actor’s playground, “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men” demonstrates John Krasinski’s willingness to take a distinctly non-commercial route for his directorial debut. “The Office” star can’t quite energize the disjointed series of character sketches from the late David Foster Wallace’s original book, but there are enough engaging monologues peppered throughout the brief seventy-seven minutes to prevent the project from becoming entirely dismissable.
To help structure the story, Krasinski invented the character of solitary academic Sara (Julianne Nicholson), whose experience with her estranged boyfriend (Krasinski) leads her to conduct a series of candid interviews with various male subjects as she comes to grips with her romantic frustration. The fragmented narrative, which moves between these one-sided conversations and Sara’s personal life, never quite finds a coherent rhythm. Fortunately, the actors — including “Death Cab for Cutie” frontman Ben Gibbard and Will Arnette — get plenty of space to dominate the screen. Jon Brion’s chilled out score helps fix the uneasy transitions, but “Hideous Men” lacks consistent emotional resonance, and doesn’t exactly aim to please impatient audiences. Then again, neither did Wallace.