It’s only January, but it’s not too early to wonder if 2011 will provide such a lousy and deceptive film as “The Dilemma.” in fear of relapse. Vince Vaughn plays Ronny, a man recovering from a gambling problem. He discovers that Geneva (Winona Ryder), the wife of his best friend and business partner, is having an affair. Ronny confronts her, runs into Chicago to spy on her, but can’t bring himself to tell Nick (Kevin James), the friend, as the movie would be 20 minutes long and would require a new title.
How about âThe Flintstonesâ? Critics and the public have observed that many movies look like TV shows and some TV series tend to be better produced than some movies. âThe Dilemmaâ really sounds like an extra-long live-action variation of âThe Flintstones,â which ran for six years in the 1960s on ABC. Vaughn is built like a sequoia. James is fat. Next to each other, you notice how much Vaughn looks like Fred Flintstone and James looks like Barney Rubble (well, someone who looks like Kevin James physically!). Geneva makes a useful Betty, and Jennifer Connelly, as Ronny’s girlfriend Beth, is a particularly stunning Wilma.
On “The Flintstones”, “The Dilemma” would be a series of misunderstandings that a square but intelligent writing would resolve. All four characters would have a big laugh at the end. As Allan Loeb writes, âThe Dilemmaâ doesn’t sound like a film deep or complex enough for a director to go astray. But Ron Howard’s GPS still works poorly. He never chooses tones that complement each other and the dissonance is shocking. In one scene, Vaughn and James dance together on the dance floor of a bar. In another, Vaughn loses his temper and screams and spits on a residential sidewalk, his eyes and neck hitting a steroid bulge, his voice breaking. As a result, he is a wrestler on Total Nonstop Action. Is this a Fred Wilma who should get married?
Vaughn, James, Ryder and Connelly should also have a good laugh at the end. Well the men do, but what they’re laughing at is actually what’s wrong with the movie. That’s what’s wrong with most Hollywood movies about male friendships. They are unintentionally homosexual, not homosexual like Vaughn, in “The Dilemma,” says electric cars are homosexual. They are homosexual homosexuals. Ronny’s angst over the Geneva affair emerges more about his love for Nick. When Nick talks to Ronny, James lowers his voice and looks deep into Vaughn’s eyes.
Ronny and Nick design electric car motors and try, in crude product placement, to get Chrysler to buy them. When Nick cranks up a car engine in the film’s final film, he bites his lip and looks at Ronny. He is in Heaven.
Right before that, they jostle each other, after a moment of emotional honesty. Watching James punch Vaughn, you might think of the âBrokeback Mountainâ moment in which Heath Ledger carries Jake Gyllenhaal once it’s clear their romantic summer is over. The violence is stranger here because we never see Nick speaking in Geneva about feelings. It only affects Ronny.
Connelly applies genuine joy and real pain to his scenes. Whatever movie she thinks she’s making, it’s the one I prefer to watch. Ryder is cast in his harshest light yet. It’s good to see her again in the cinema. But his return means adding to his streak of laughably unflattering parts (“Star Trek”, “Black Swan”), perhaps best to think fondly of, say, “Heathers” and be done. Suggest that the women these two play in “The Dilemma” are called “Wilma” and “Betty” feels generous since “Beard 1” and Beard 2 “would work too.
Elsewhere, Vaughn fights with Channing Tatum, as Geneva’s lover (Tatum’s transformation into a wahlbergian pseudo-thug with a sweaty voice is over) and tolerates Queen Latifah reveling in the phallic excitement some car engines arouse in it. Vaughn puts on a show of discomfort with sexually assertive women. He spent “Wedding Crashers” virtually mourning the rape at the hands of Isla Fisher.
He seems happier in the company of men. To that end, a scene from âThe Dilemmaâ is a wave of conflicting messages. Ronny jumps onto the ice in a Blackhawks game and ecstatically slides on his knees towards Nick, who, in a separate shot, happily walks over to Ronny. Meanwhile, poor Beth watches from the stands, a spectator forced to watch Fred and Barney have a good old time.
Wesley Morris can be reached at [email protected]
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