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Arts and Entertainment

Movie Review: Introducing the Dwights

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Sometimes I prefer to watch the film that completely and utterly fails than the one that half-succeeds. With the true catastrophe you can always laugh at the unintentional humor, take a trip to the bathroom without the least bit of hurry in your step, even check baseball scores on your cell phone and share the results with inquisitive aisle-mates. The almost-there movie, on the other hand, maddeningly demands your constant attention. You keep thinking that it's all about to start working, that it's almost up and over Mediocre Hill but the reality is that it never quite makes it. That's how I felt after seeing Introducing the Dwights.

It's too bad really because Introducing the Dwights (or Clubland as it was released in Australia) has elements in it that promise a better film. Brenda Blethyn is reliably spot-on in her portrayal of an aging comedienne who never misses an opportunity to make those around her feel guilty for her own lack of success (and unlike in, say, Punchline her act was actually pretty funny). Additionally, Emma Booth is a revelation as the young woman who seduces Blethyn's youngest son, Tim (Khan Chittenden, a triple-ringer for Rupert Grint). Their scenes together are actually the ones that kept me hoping a good movie was about to emerge.

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But it didn't. For everything that worked, something else crashed, burned and set fire to a peace-loving retirement community of elves (metaphorically). Chittenden was solid, if dull, as Tim, but Richard Wilson was just painful as his brother Mark. In the movie he's described by Tim as "brain-damaged" but it seemed more likely that he was afflicted with Nicolas Cage Over-Acting Disorder. The performance was mysterious in conception and not particularly kind since Mark is mostly played for laughs (on a side note, how can Cage be so absolutely perfect in Adaptation and so profoundly terrible in The Wicker Man? A mystery, Gentles, a mystery).

The plot itself was fairly straightforward. Mom works in a kitchen by day, performs at night, hopes for big break. Teen-ish son falls in love with girl, bones girl repeatedly. Girl and mom clash, elevate clash, ultimately resolve clash. And it all ends in a wedding! How then did this story come across as so disjointed? On several occasions, director Cherie Nowlanmade a choice that I couldn't believe. She resolved complex emotional character issues...off-screen. Considering that many of the characters in this movie aren't particularly likable, how can you deprive the audience of seeing them work through their problems? It's a decision that basically killed the movie for me. As I mentioned earlier, it was maddening.

Introducing the Dwights is playing around L.A., most notably at the awesome Landmark (Westwood @ Pico)

Photos courtesy of Palace Films