DVD Review of The Dilemma: There’s a little bit of everything in Ron Howard’s latest — slapstick gags, bromantic interludes, un-PC humor, unflinchingly raw drama, and even a Blackhawks game in the middle of the summer. If you simply want to laugh, sit this one out. But if you’re OK with a wildly veering story that has just about every emotion on record acted out by an enjoyable cast, carry on.
The following is an edited reprint of redblog’s theatrical review of The Dilemma. The Dilemma is now available to rent at redbox.
Let’s get one thing straight upfront: The Dilemma is not a comedy. A comedy, by definition, exists almost solely to make its audience laugh, and there are far more dark, somber moments in Ron Howard’s latest film than humorous ones. I still enjoyed The Dilemma for what it truly was (which, in my opinion, is “uncategorizable”), but my bet is that many people who see this one are going to feel like they were given the old bait and switch. Because when you start watching a movie starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James — two actors who’ve built their careers as funnymen — you’re not expecting a serious look at failing marriages, infidelity, gambling addiction, and trust issues, now are you?
James stars as Nick, an ulcer-laden creative genius at an independent automotive design company who’s under the gun to deliver on a huuuge project for Chrysler. So huge is this project that Nick is losing sleep, throwing up, unable to eat, and having meltdowns whenever something doesn’t go his way. He’s convinced he’ll fail, and that his ineptitude will lead to his personal and professional financial ruin. He’s freaking himself — and everyone around him — the hell out.
Nick’s business partner Ronny (Vaughn) is usually a laid-back guy who helps counteract Nick’s stress with his “It’s all gonna be OK” attitude and fast-spewing wisecracks. Until he spots Nick’s wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) making out with a tattooed twentysomething (Channing Tatum). Not only has Nick and Geneva’s “perfect marriage” just disintegrated in front of Ronny’s eyes, but he’s also faced with the most awful scenario he can imagine. Does he tell Nick about Geneva’s indiscretions — and if he does, does he break the bad news immediately… or wait until the Chrysler project is in the bag?
I was fairly surprised by the route Ronny takes — and by what happens with and to the rest of the characters as a result. I’m not sure if my shock stemmed from the voice in the back of my head that kept whispering (I thought this was supposed to be a comedy… what in the heck is going on?) or from just how real and painful Ronny’s choices (and the subsequent repercussions) were. I was impressed by most of the cast’s performances — especially Winona’s — but felt discombobulated throughout. I kept waiting for the mood to lighten — for all of the dark subplots to be magically dissipated by an unexpected twist. But that didn’t happen. In fact, the character who I can only assume was meant to be the Bringer of One-Liners — a consultant played by Queen Latifah — was probably the worst thing about the movie. The audience already had to suffer uncomfortably through the infamous “gay joke” that stirred up controversy prior to the film’s theatrical release — did we really have to deal multiple mentions of “lady wood” to boot? Seriously.
But if I look past those unfortunate bits of dialogue, I’m left with a movie that I didn’t expect but was certainly moved by. Life’s not neat and tidy, and neither is The Dilemma. While some people might have been happier if Howard had made a more straightforward genre-fitting film that had a clear-cut Beginning, Middle and End, I’m pleased that he kept it real.
The Dilemma is now available at redbox. Reserve a copy!