Matthew Weiner’s contemporary comedy “You Are Here,” an exploration of male friendship starring Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis, doesn’t work. How could the creator of “Mad Men” so miss the mark? Weiner wrote the script just after he wrote “Mad Men,” and always intended for the lead to be played by Wilson. “I think Owen’s an under-appreciated actor,” he said. “I liked his screen persona which I feel is guiles and there’s a glibness there, there’s a kind of lighthearted comic sensibility but I always saw depth in there.”
When I talked to Weiner for an Indiewire Q & A, he articulately explained what he was going after—a realistic sweet portrait of two men who are lost and not able to manage their lives, one a bipolar pot grower who resists medication, the other a weatherman who cloaks his feelings via alcohol, weed and womanizing. Eventually the two reach growth and maturation. “I wanted to write a character-based story about someone who doesn’t feel,” he said. “Why not let it go down like a spoonful of sugar?”
Yet as you watch the film, which was funded by indie producer Gary Gilbert (“The Kids Are All Right”), it feels stiffly conventional and stuck in various stereotypes: the heedless playboy (Wilson), the pothead layabout (Galifianakis) the earth goddess muse (Laura Ramsey). Weiner’s ideas do not really come across. Reviews will be rough on this one.
See the roundup below:
It’s understandable that for his first stab at feature
filmmaking, Matthew Weiner might want to explore territory far from that of his
brilliant long-form television drama, Mad Men. But it’s disappointing, even
downright depressing, that the man who invented Don Draper couldn’t come up
with anything better than the tired bromance refugees played by Owen Wilson and
Zach Galifianakis in You Are Here. While it aims to explore the crooked path to
male self-knowledge and a more harmonious place in the world, this tonal mess
rarely puts a foot right as comedy and makes only marginal improvements when it
turns poignant toward the end.
“You Are Here” is Matthew Weiner’s contribution to the
modern man-child genre: a study of toxic selfishness presented at comedy that
isn’t nearly funny enough for a film starring Owen Wilson and Zach
Galifianakis, and nowhere near as serious as Weiner’s celebrated TV work. What
“Mad Men” fans itching to see Weiner’s first attempt at feature directing don’t
realize is that he penned this script well before his hit show existed, and the
two projects share almost no creative DNA. Technically, it’s no worse than the
average studio comedy…
Beyond an overstuffed screenplay, Weiner’s biggest mistake
is an attempt to fashion a James L. Brooks-esque dramedy out of the
proceedings. It should be noted that even Brooks only succeeded with his own
formula a few times (this critic would argue only twice) and it’s a specific
tone that’s incredibly difficult to duplicate. “You Are Here”
switches from slapstick comedy to serious family drama to romantic comedy to a
mental health awareness drama over and over and over again. Even Brooks would
have dropped at least two out of the four categories. Granted, Weiner directs a
few individual scenes that are at least interesting to watch, but they all seem
like they are cut from different films.
Generally the comedy sits uncomfortably with the drama.
Weiner has made a sporadically funny but awkward film with a surprisingly
conservative heart (surely nobody still thinks beards are antisocial?), and
finished it off with a kiss-and-rainstorm climax that the Mad Men team would
have laughed out of the room.
What is most difficult to comprehend here is what drove
Weiner to devote so much time and energy to so lackluster a story. There is
nothing wrong with a change of pace, or with using success in one medium to
take on something very different in another. But why this story, at this time?
Why saddle talented actors like Wilson, Galifianakis and Poehler with hackneyed
roles and subpar material? And how can we avoid comparing the film with “Mad
Men”? Too many questions, yes, but the truth is, “You Are Here” is a film so
bad that these questions are the only thing worth discussing.