Wednesday, November 24, 2010

MYMNK: Chaos Theory

Firstly, let me apologize for the hiatus.  It's been a crazy couple of weeks, but I am back to writing for your reading pleasure.  So, with that, I'd like to introduce a new series of articles: Movies You May Not Know, or MYMNK.  For the first of these new reviews, I'll be covering Chaos Theory, the indie film starring Ryan Reynolds.

The movie centers around Frank Allen (Ryan Reynolds) a motivational speaker specializing in time efficiency.  Frank leads a seemingly simple, satisfying life with his wife Susan (Emily Mortimer) and daughter Jessie.  On the morning of a presentation that could prove to be a huge boon for his career, Frank realizes that Susan accidently set the clock wrong.  Frank ends up running an hour late for his presentation which sets up the entire rest of the movie's plot, as that single hour throws Frank's life into complete chaos.

Frank ends up being rather angry with his wife for her mistake and ends up harmlessly flirting with Paula (Sarah Chalke, best known as Elliot Reed from TV's Scrubs) who gets Frank drunk and then attempts to take advantage of him by luring him up to his own hotel room.  Frank, being an honorable man, informs her that he loves his wife and leaves the room.  Through simple bad luck, that's the moment when Susan calls his hotel room and, of course, Paula decides to answer.  I'm sure you can imagine what happens from there, and I'd prefer not to give out too many spoilers.  Needless to say, Frank's life takes a sharp left at that moment.

What's shocking to me is that Chaos Theory only has a 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (as reviewed by critics).  Granted, the audience rating is quite a bit higher at 61%, but the low rating still surprises me.

Overall, the film is a true dramedy in that it involves a rather serious, and tragic, subject matter spiked by bits of comedy.  What's great about the movie is that the comedy isn't intrusive on the overall story, but rather complimentary.  Most modern comedies allow the humor to come from set-ups, where a writer sits down and goes "Ok, so this is funny...", whereas Chaos Theory lets the humor simply flow, seeming more natural.  These aren't jokes written for the purpose of being funny (for the most part), but rather interactions that seem humorous to us as the audience.

I'll give an example:  There's a scene a bit over half-way through the film where a despondent Frank runs into Paula, the woman who can be held partially to blame for his life falling to shambles, in a bar.  She asks if he's still into time management and he immediately asks whether or not she's still a "home-wrecking bitch."

Now, of course, me typing the scenario out for you isn't nearly as funny as Reynolds delivery of the line, but I hope that you get my point about the comedy stemming from a naturalistic flow and realistic reactions.

None of this is to say that the movie is without it's flaws.  Overall, the performances are an average.  They aren't bad, but they aren't anything ground-breaking either.  I feel like the only person who really threw themselves into their role was Reynolds.  Throughout the movie you get a sense of the character's deepening depression and frustration with his complete loss of control over his life.  This is one of those movies that really proves that Reynolds has moved beyond his Van Wilder stage and is ready for the big-league.

Another complaint of mine, and I know that there are others who feel this way, is the ending.  The last twenty minutes of the main storyline just feel melodramatic to the point of bordering on soap opera territory.  It's certainly not the worst of endings, but it could have been better, a lot better.  You watch a movie for an hour and twenty minutes and you expect the ending to reflect the movie as a whole, but it seems that the filmmakers decided otherwise and left any trace of humor out of those scenes, which makes it feel hollow compared to the rest of the film.

I should note that the film is book-ended by scenes taking place years after the main storyline where Frank is talking to his soon to be son-in-law about the chaotic nature of love.  They're minor scenes, but they really frame the movie well and I thought they'd be worth mentioning.

I would certainly recommend this movie to anyone who's a fan of independent movies, Ryan Reynolds, or even just the dramedy genre as a whole.  So, "Check It Out" or "Pass It Up"?

Check It Out!

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