Review: Are You Here
PLOT: When Ben Bakerís father passes away, he returns to his hometown along with his childhood friend Steve Dallas. Their lives change drastically after a will reading when they find that Benís deceased father has left him his million dollar estate.
In Matthew Weinerís feature film debut ARE YOU HERE, the ďMad MenĒ creator examines a broken family after the loss of their father. Yet we see this family from an outsidersí perspective, thanks to our protagonist, a local TV weatherman played by Owen Wilson. This complicated scenario plays out yet we find only a glimmer of what makes Weinerís work on television so powerful. This occasionally funny, yet all too often lackluster comedy drama isnít quite clever enough and isnít nearly as emotionally complex as its subject matter would lead you to believe.
Owen Wilson stars as Steve Dallas, a self-centered weatherman who shares an off balance friendship with his childhood friend Ben Baker (Zach Galifianakis). After the death of Benís father, Steve agrees to take his neurotic buddy to the funeral and to settle things with his sister Terri (Amy Poehler). Things get especially frustrating for the family at the will reading when their father seems to favor one of the children. Surprisingly they find that their far too young step-mom Angela (Laura Ramsey) has no desire to take her deceased husbandís million dollar estate and is happy to leave it to the adult children. And yes, both Ben and Terri very much act like children, although one clinically has issues that need to be addressed.
While this story is told from Dallasí point of view, this is not really his story. As Ben, Galifianakis once again plays a sort of lovable loser yet this is a little more somber than his usual cache. He is paranoid and a strict vegetarian and has no interest in taking his fatherís business. His sister Terri is frustrated that she seems to be given the raw deal from her father, and she takes it out on everybody around her. Galifianakis is quite good here, as is Poehler, yet the two actors donít have much to play with. Especially for Poehler, there is very little growth or heart in the script leaving the two trying to make the best of what they have. Wilson as Dallas is pretty much what youíd expect from Owen Wilson and once again, he is fine, but none of these three characters stand out.
With a cast of very talented comedic actors, the real stand-out happens to be Laura Ramsey (THE RUINS). As Angela, the young widow clearly puts a spell on the men involved. The actress gives such warmth and compassion to a character that would usually not be so compelling. As her relationship grows with both Dallas and Baker, she becomes an integral part and the movie is better for it. Give a little credit to Weiner for doing something a little different with the younger woman clichť.
As a fan of Poehler, it was a frustrating to see her so underused. As a woman mourning the loss of her father - yet seemingly more interested in what heíd leave in his will - there was very little of her. The actress is always quite terrific, and as a fan of her work on ďParks and RecreationĒ, perhaps watching her wallow in a miserable role was part of the problem. None of her usual charm was on display here. Certainly the choices Terri makes are understandable, yet it would have been nice to see her more than just the one-note role it is.
ARE YOU HERE should have worked much better than it ultimately does. This look at depression and the loss of a family member isnít terrible, yet it is not very memorable either. Aside from Ramsey, the main players arenít very interesting. And as far as its look at mental health, it only superficially uncovers any of this complicated subject which has been dealt with many times before and much better. Not really all that funny, and not all that touching, but if you are a fan of the cast it might be worth a rental.