By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)
Despite the casting of talented actors Colin Firth and Emily Blunt, this psychological romantic comedy, plays out flatly with a few lovely and humorous moments scattered amongst some of the obligatory soul searching a story of this nature requires. Even though the film has an undeniable heart and delivers some amusing scenes, the story fails to take the characters to any interesting territory and certainly lacks the necessary comedy to truly define the this film as a rom-com.
Wallace Avery (Colin Firth) trudges through his everyday life unhappily. He lacks passion and almost feels dead inside. His estranged son Kevin (Lucas Hedges) resents him and refuses to spend time with him. His girlfriend Mina (Anne Heche) barely tolerates him. Wallace is so ready for a major change in his life that he decides to fake his death and move away to Terre Haute, Indiana to start a brand new life. As he begins his journey, Wallace, who now goes by the identity Arthur Newman, encounters a kindred spirit in the form of the troubled and broken Mike (Emily Blunt). Arthur reluctantly takes her along for the ride and the two share a road trip where they begin to enjoy alternate personalities. That is until they discover there is no escaping the personal demons they bring with them.
Written by Becky Johnston and directed by Dante Ariola, Arthur Newman has a fascinating premise that fails to go anywhere too bold or dynamic. The humor factor is definitely lacking as is the conflict. With the exception of some mildly entertaining erotic adventures taken by the movie leads, the journey is mostly as dull as Wallace Avery’s depressed existence. In fact, even Firth brings little range to his character. He’s not completely terrible in the film. He’s just capable of more and is limited by the limitations of the screenplay.
In fact, Emily Blunt outshines Firth as a brash, bold, yet vulnerable lady who’s running away from her past familial problems. She’d rather spend the rest of her life playing pretend, role playing as the supposedly “ideal” people she witnesses while avoiding reality. I also feel that her character suffers from the limitations of the script, but at least Johnston develops Mike in more interesting ways than she does Wallace/Arthur.
I really do hate to discourage people from spending ticket money on independent films, but when an indie movie fails to deliver material deserving of big money, I can’t help it. Arthur Newman has its entertainment value and the leads have their charming and fun scenes, but the screenplay lacks the necessary meat to pull off an otherwise exciting premise. I’d recommend waiting to rent this film. In the meantime, if one desires a similar story of psychologically troubled people bonding and helping each other, rent Silver Linings Playbook.