Screened Out – Are You Here?

By : Stephen Miller
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Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Poehler, Laura Ramsey

Here’s the single, solitary amazing thing about this film, which opens Friday, Aug. 22 – the breadth of its horribleness!

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner lined up some credible actors. The score, art direction, and cinematography try to save a bad script. In the last few moments, Are You Here? almost becomes something resembling a watchable film.

There – I’ve said all the nice things I can possibly scrape up about this unbearable crud. The truth is I’d rather watch someone run a rake across a chalkboard. I actually love film, and – believe it or not – I feel guilty writing reviews this snarky about anything, but I feel it’s my job as a critic to deliver a stiff warning.

Wilson is a drunk, high weatherman who maxes out his credit cards, demeans dates, belittles coworkers, and tries to hire prostitutes for free. His best friend of decades, Galifianakis, is a mentally unstable manchild who grows pot in the closet of his rusty, filthy mobile home. When Galifianakis’ dad – a man we never meet – kicks the bucket, Wilson and Galifianakis have to deal with shrewish, selfish sister Poehler. They also navigate around dad’s widow, Ramsey, a very young nympho who doesn’t mind being ogled at. She’ll give you a speech afterward, but she won’t stop you while you’re doing it.

Laura Ramsey, from Mad Men, was recruited by Max Wiener into a truly degrading part.

Laura Ramsey, from Mad Men, was recruited by Max Wiener into a truly degrading part.

In short, nobody is likable or interesting. Instead, they inspire rage and disgust.

Weiner should know that audiences need characters that are relatable or fascinating (or, better yet, a combination of both). Yet, it seems he’s purposely made a film where everyone is stupid and horrible. It’s as if he’s testing us with these boorish, dull lowlifes. The supposed funny parts are not at all funny, and the drama is banal and dreary.

Spoiler alert – because I really feel you should never see this film: it gets worse…

It’s pretty obvious that Galifianakis has mental issues. However, until he gets a huge inheritance – a largesse that both Poehler and Wilson feel they deserve a cut of – no one helps him. Throw money into the mix, and suddenly everyone becomes Florence Nightingale, trying to get Galifianakis committed.

Poehler also wants have a child – or maybe not. That plot point was brought up and dropped about a third of the way through the film. Thank God, because her character would make a truly terrifying mom.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

Ramsey is a slacker whose free-love spirit we’re supposed to admire rather than pity. She says things that sound wise…until you realize she also sleeps with people in hopes of making them better. Apparently, she thinks she has a magic vagina.

Maybe this would’ve worked if Weiner had realized all of his characters are absolutely loathsome. Then, he could have at least made them interesting as unlikeable jerks, maybe torturing them a bit for audiences’ delight.

The worst thing is, twenty minutes from the end, everyone supposedly becomes marginally less crappy. (Though I still hated them, just less.) Poehler treats her brother with something distantly resembling respect. Galifianakis becomes even more boring. Wilson cries a couple times. Ramsey aims her miraculous genitals at one person instead of everyone.

Are You Here? Not if audiences are at all smart.

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