#REVIEW: “ARE YOU HERE”
Review by Justin Waldman for Mr. Will Wong
Director Matthew Weiner is known for writing and directing heavier matter like Mad Men and The Sopranos, so it comes as no shock that his first feature Film veers towards the dark. The most surprising thing about Are You Here though is its choice of casting a comedic Ensemble despite its serious tone. Despite a bit of unevenness, its meaningful Storyline manages to guide us from beginning to end.
The Movie centers on Siblings Terri Baker (Amy Poehler), Ben Baker (Zack Galifianakis) and the latter’s Best Friend Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson). After learning of their Father’s passing, Terri and Ben find themselves grappling with their loss. All the while, Terri pushes Ben to change for the better. Unfortunately, Ben and Steve don’t see it that way and instead see her actions as an attack. In addition, Terri is at odds with her Stepmother Angelina (Laura Ramsey) over her true intentions for being with her Father. The Siblings then learn that their Father had left Ben the majority of his Estate, however due to Ben’s incompetence, Terri decides to challenge the Will. And so the tension mounts between Brother and Sister.
Although Are You Here is meant as an opportunity for comedic Heavyweights like Poehler, Galifianakis and Wilson to show their dramatic chops and range – believe me, it’s been done as evinced by Adam Sandler‘s phenomenal dramatic turn in Punch-Drunk Love – the talented Stars never quite find their best stride here. Poehler menaces as the imposing Sister, but never truly owns it enough to win us over. The same can be said about Wilson, whose role is intended to provide a bit of comic relief, although never quite funny enough. Galifianakis we’ve seen before in dramatic mode, but like Poehler, whom we normally love, struggles with the material.
What redeems Are You Here ultimately is its exploration of meaningful themes. Weiner handles gracefully coping with loss and mental illness here and ties it all up neatly so that you still walk away with something self-reflective.
VVS Films release Are You Here on Friday, August 22, 2014.