The vast majority of movies are the stories of men, written and directed by men. The loop is effectively closed because the vast majority of movies are then critiqued by men. But every once in awhile a woman not only critiques a movie, but points out that the Emperor has no clothes, as Jeannette Catsoulis does so brilliantly in her New York Times review of Dedication.
In a World of Heartbreak, He’s a Catch (Quirks a Plus)
By JEANNETTE CATSOULIS
Published: August 24, 2007 [New York Times]
That weird exhalation you hear at the multiplex these days is the sound of female characters settling for less than they deserve. Following on the wildly successful antifeminist heels of “Knocked Up,” Hollywood is falling over itself to introduce beautiful, smart young women to useless, possibly brain-damaged young men. Regular bathers need not apply.
The latest entry in this unappealing genre is “Dedication,” a movie that reveals its toxic intentions only gradually. Until it does, there is much to enjoy in the prickly odd-couple relationship of Henry (Billy Crudup) and Rudy (Tom Wilkinson), successful writing partners and longtime friends. Together they watch bad pornography and discuss Henry’s many mental problems. “We communicate nowadays through damage,” opines the significantly older Rudy before succumbing to a brain tumor. Robbed of his illustrator and enabler, and contractually obligated to deliver another book, Henry must find a new partner.
Enter Lucy (Mandy Moore), a raven-haired artist fresh from heartbreak and eager to punish herself further. Henry may be no one’s idea of a catch — he fears cars and uses books for blankets — but Lucy, whose own mother is all but certifiable, has a high tolerance for indie-movie quirkiness. And as the ending becomes more manifest than Henry’s neuroses, what began as an oddball study of a jagged male friendship devolves into cliché and compromise.
The directing debut of the actor Justin Theroux, “Dedication” is almost saved by David Bromberg’s tart dialogue and exceptional acting from its three leads. Ms. Moore is soft and appealing in a thankless role, diluting the barbed camaraderie of the film’s early scenes and humanizing a screenplay defined by dysfunction. And if Mr. Theroux had only kept his nerve and ended with his penultimate scene, a bittersweet reconnection to the central male friendship, “Dedication” would have been a different, better movie.
Even so, the marvelous Mr. Crudup is seldom less than mesmerizing. In one remarkable, breathless monologue, he almost makes you believe a girl could do worse than give her heart to a misanthropic obsessive-compulsive. Not on my watch.
“Dedication” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has a little pornography, a little snuggling and a lot of mental disorder.
Opens today in New York and Los Angeles.
Directed by Justin Theroux; written by David Bromberg; director of photography, Stephen Kazmierski; edited by Andy Keir; music by Edward Shearmur; production designer, Teresa Mastropierro; produced by Celine Rattray, Daniela Taplin Lundberg and Galt Niederhoffer; released by the Weinstein Company. Running time: 93 minutes.
WITH: Billy Crudup (Henry Roth), Mandy Moore (Lucy Riley), Tom Wilkinson (Rudy Holt), Martin Freeman (Jeremy), Bob Balaban (Mr. Planck), Dianne Wiest (Carol), Christine Taylor (Allison), Amy Sedaris (Sue) and Bobby Cannavale (Don).