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Janet W., Here…
Are You Here is the question that should have been asked of the filmmakers. Normally, I would start with an overview of the film, but let’s get right to the critique. The plot was unclear and disjointed along with the dialogue. The lack of linear flow in the telling of this story of friendship and family and how they can be interwoven is to blame. Have you ever loved a friend so much that they were like family? Were you able to distinguish between helping them and enabling them? It appears that this may have been the goal the screenwriters were aiming to showcase. However, random sequences like Dallas’ seemingly endless sexcapdes, Baker’s fast-framed stoner frenzy, and a constant array of buck-naked women that the viewers have to see from head to toe distracts from the narrative. Sex still sells, I guess. The film ends in such an abrupt way that the audience is left thinking, “Why have I just sat through all this?” On top of it all, the film is way too long (8 minutes shy of 2 hours), but really didn’t get anywhere.
Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson) and Ben Baker (Zach Galifianakis) are best friends from childhood. Although they are older they have not grown up. Dallas is a weatherman that only performs with minimal effort. Dallas and Baker still chain smoke reefer, cannot manage their finances, maintain a relationship (except for consistent transactions with prostitutes) and Baker is even a recluse. Their journey begins when Baker’s father dies and they have to travel to his hometown to lay him to rest. Dallas is more like an enabling guardian than a friend to Baker, but it is the blind leading the blind.
Wilson and Galifianakis portray the same roles that they have played for years. Wilson’s characters in Meet the Fockers, The Internship, and Armageddon among others were like his Steve Dallas character in Are You Here in that he was the usual philosophical guru type. Dallas is just more of a sex addict with family issues. In the same vein, Galifianakis’ character, Ben Baker, is a hot mess crazy kook as he was in The Hangover movies. Has this gotten old for anyone, besides me? Two actors known for their comedic performances barely had any real funny moments in Are You Here. In fact, the only notable “ha ha” moments were performed by extras an aggressive security guard and two walking across a cubicle wall during a broadcast. Even the usually hilarious Amy Poehler was no help.
Baker’s sister, Terri Coulter (Amy Poehler), only comes off as a witchy suffocating nag. Women are so objectified in this film; Poehler was limited to one-line anecdotes and not very many. She wasn’t alone. Baker’s father had a young widow, Angela Baker (Laura Ramsey). Baker is a hippie chick that is basically raped by the camera in the funeral scene, costume of choice, a nearly see-through white bohemian sundress that the camera zooms to leave little to the imagination. Ramsey is no stranger to playing the modern day damsel in distress (really just the woman who has to have a man for the movie to end) as she did in The Covenant and She’s the Man. The only difference is that she is a brunette in Are You Here.
Only my duty to be as objective as I could, kept me in the theater. FYI, normally at a screening the audience claps at the end of the film. For the first time, no one clapped initially and then one lone person clapped as if in sympathy. I cannot recommend this film for anyone. Not even guys seeking naked chicks could sit through this one.
1 out of 5 Stars
– Janet L. White