A man tells his pregnant girlfriend he will marry her when she can name three couples who have been happy together for more than five years. She offers her parents and “that cute couple from the pond.” He reminds her that ducks don’t count.
Fans of Zach Braff may be disconcerted to see him as Michael, a more complex and unlikeable character than his sweet and adorably lost characters in “Scrubs” and Garden State. But that is a function of his character’s age and situation more than his personality. Michael is 29 years old and his girlfriend is pregnant. The stakes are much higher. Bad decisions will have devastating consequences. And that is what makes it interesting. Although at first it has the feel of a safe romantic comedy-drama, this is not an “almost” story. People inflict great pain on each other, and we don’t get a lot of tidy happy endings.
Michael is an architect who wants to let more air and light into his buildings. He’s feeling a little claustrophobic in his life, too. The pregnancy was unplanned. Now other scary words are coming into the conversation — house, m-m-marriage, c-c-commitment, n-n-n-n-never. That last one refers to when he will get to kiss another girl. Yes, Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) is beautiful, sexy, smart, and devoted. But she is just one woman. Will that be enough for him?
Michael’s old friends don’t present him with any appealing alternatives. One has become a near-stalker of the woman who broke up with him. One is a bartender who parties all the time. One is a new father feeling inadequate and smothered. And his girlfriend’s parents (Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkenson), the ones from the example of long-term relationships, are separated. An appealing alternative is Kim (Rachel Bilson), a music student, whose openness and admiration makes him feel ten years younger. Can you have a mid-life crisis at age 29? Is anything ever as uncomplicated as it seems?
Braff creates a likeable character who makes some unlikeable choices. But none of the ultimate resolutions feel as satsifying as they are intended to, and Kim always seems like a plot device, not a person. She is as imaginary as the Bo Derek character in the similarly-themed 10, but this story, like its main character, fails to give her the consideration she deserves.
Braff, who produced the superb soundtrack for Garden State, delivers another superb selection of heartfelt indie gems. But this time, they are more heartfelt and memorable than the movie they adorn.
Parents should know that this movie has very explicit sexual situations and references and very strong language. Characters drink, sometimes to excess. They make foolish and hurtful choices and there are tense and emotional confrontations.
Families who see this movie should talk about some of the tough choices we make when we grow up and what we do to learn to forgive and heal and move on after terrible and painful mistakes. Who in this film do you respect and why?
Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Diner, The Wood, and the grand-daddy of all groping toward grown-up intimacy movies, the Oscar-winning Marty.