Friday, December 18, 2009

DVD Views: The Accidental Husband

The Accidental Husband *
Directed By:
Griffin Dunne.
Written By: Mimi Hare & Claire Naylor and Bonnie Sikowitz.
Starring: Uma Thurman (Dr. Emma Lloyd), Colin Firth (Richard Bratton), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Patrick Sullivan), Sam Shepard (Wilder), Lindsay Sloane (Marcy), Justina Machado (Sofia), Isabella Rossellini (Mrs. Bollenbecker), Keir Dullea (Mr. Bollenbecker).

Uma Thurman should not make romantic comedies. She is a talented actress, who excels at playing strong, complex women, but something about the romantic comedy and her just doesn’t mesh. I think perhaps she seems to too smart to be saddled with these insipid plots.

In The Accidental Husband, Thurman plays Dr. Emma Lloyd, a relationship expert who advises women on the kind of man they should be with. She has written a book called REAL Love. The REAL stands for Responsible, Equal, Adult, Love. She is annoyed by women who fall for the Bad Boy – men who they are sexually attracted to, but have no real substance. She has a talk show, where daily she gives out advice to anyone who calls in.

One day, a woman named Sophia calls in and describes her fiancée. To Emma, this sounds like exactly the type of man who women should be staying away from. Sophia takes Emma’s advice and dumps her fireman fiancé, Patrick (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Patrick is furious, and with the help of his computer hacker neighbor, breaks into the New York State files, and fixes it so that he and Emma are actually married. His plan is to get even with Emma.

This becomes an issue because Emma is engaged to Richard (Colin Firth), a responsible adult who Emma loves dearly. There isn’t any real passion in their relationship, but love, respect and companionship. When they go down to get their marriage license, she is informed that she is already married, and in order to get a new marriage license, she and her current husband will have to fill out a load of paperwork. Thinking that it’s just a clerical error, this is exactly what Emma does, bringing all the papers to Patrick. Through a series of miscommunications and mix-ups, Patrick ends up spending more and more time with Emma, and starts to see the real woman underneath the façade. She gets confused, because she may actually start to be falling for exactly the type of man she advises other women against.

Now perhaps this sounds to you like a good set-up for a romantic comedy. I’ll admit that a good one probably could be made out of this premise, which really is no more ridiculous than most romantic comedy plots. The problem with this one is that is painfully unfunny and false. Thurman does not do a good job at playing Emma at the beginning when she is a stuck up snob, and doesn’t really get any better as the movie progresses and she starts to let her guard down. Thurman looks lost in the movie, like she has no real idea of who her character really is. Colin Firth is on autopilot here. I’m sure he’s just as tired of playing the responsible man in the romantic triangle as we are of seeing him in the role, but he looks incredibly bored, and delivers most of his lines in a flat monotone. He cannot even work up anger when he thinks his fiancée is cheating on him. The less said about the supporting cast, including Sam Shepard, Isabella Rossellini and Keir Dullea, the better. The only one who looks in his element here is Jeffrey Dean Morgan (probably still best know from his stint as Denny on Grey’s Anatomy). He can probably play the romantic leading man well, if he was given a script that required him to do more than smile and crack lame jokes.

Another problem is the direction by Griffin Dunne. Like his previous films – Addicted to Love, Practical Magic and Fierce People – The Accidental Husband struggles to maintain the proper tone and pacing that the story requires. He doesn’t seem to know how to work with actors (surprising since he is quite good actor himself), and the whole movie is sloppily assembled.

Admittedly, romantic comedies are not one of my favorite genres. And yet, when a good one comes along, I have no problem giving myself over to the contrivances and coincidences that are inherent in the genre. But The Accidental Husband is nowhere near a good movie on any level. It is simply a waste of time for everyone involved.

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