The Discovery ** / *****
Directed by: Charlie McDowell.
Written by: Justin Lader & Charlie McDowell.
Starring: Jason Segel (Will), Rooney Mara (Isla), Robert Redford (Thomas), Riley Keough (Lacey), Jesse Plemons (Toby), Mary Steenburgen (Interviewer), Ron Canada (Cooper), Richard O'Rourke (Marvin), M.J. Karmi (Janice), Paul Bellefeuille (Pat Phillips), Adam Khaykin (Oliver).
The Discovery is a film that tackles big themes, but makes the mistake in thinking that because it does so, it has to be morose the whole time. Segel, primarily known as a comedic actor, but desperate to change that (his first step was in his not bad performance as David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour, seems to think that being a serious actor requires you to be joyless in each and every scene you’re in. His Will is a monotone bore. The rest of the cast is better – Mara’s Isla doesn’t have much depth, but she gives her some anyway, and I quite liked Redford, who doesn’t sell you that what he’s saying is real, but does sell you on the fact that he believes it. Riley Keough, so good in American Honey last year, is very good in a small role her as well.
The Discovery also tries hard to stack one narrative twist and turn on top of another, so that by the time the end comes – which is specifically designed to blow your mind – you’re on to the films tricks, and they no longer work on you. I think that McDowell is a talented writer/director – The One I Love showed that – but The Discovery is a pretty big misfire for him. The film was is desperate need of some humor – or some life.