Cool, honest guy, has some problems in his life. He runs a flavor extract business successfully, but his marriage is on a down slope. Someone gets injured at the factory and the company he worked many years to build risks going bankrupt. His pill-pushing local bartender tries to help him but makes things worse. A new attractive employee attempts to swindle him. And the gigolo he hired to cheat on his wife falls in love with her. To top it all off, his annoying neighbor won’t shut up about a charity dinner party he has no intention of attending.
Engaging characters, funny dialog, attuned casting, and an artistic plea for more meaningful metaphors in stories.
1. The Workplace
The name of the company is Reynold’s Extract. Reynolds, like the plastic wrapping, because the metaphor of enveloping or wrapping, or surrounding, is the spirit of collaboration, and the workplace is the heart of the story like it is the heart of the main character’s life. There are more than six recurring characters in the factory who each add a subtle weight to the story. It’s impressive how with just a few shots, they anchor themselves in our memory. It might just be because of their clothing, or a facial expression, or the color patterns in the background, or the camera movements around the space. The floor manager calls everyone a “dinkus” in an offhand way as if he can’t differentiate between them, but the fact is that all the comical effects are about their differences. Things get built inside while everything outside (in the man’s life) is falling apart. The importance of the domino-effect assembly-line style where each contribution is part of a chain reaction is shown more than once.
2. The Swindler
Mila Kunis is the counterpoint to the stay-at-home wife. She opens the movie in a scene where she steals a fusion guitar from a music store, only to go sell it a few minutes later to a pawn shop. She makes up stories by connecting things together and gets paid for it. She’s the criminal deviant that is so appealing, the necessary out of bounds creative sexual energy.
3. The Pill-Pushing Bartender
Ben Affleck channeling his Kevin Smith days, delivering deadpans, inciting drug use, and making sure he gets monetary retribution. A “bartender/spiritualist/healer” who brings out the beast in the main character, and is his all too necessary evil companion.
From there on, things move slow in an unboxing manner. Predictably all is well that ends well, but with just enough change in the characters to make it stick. The dull, stay-at-home wife ends up killing someone (albeit by accident), therefore reversing roles with the swindler. This is just enough for the reconciliation to take place.
A few bits don’t payoff as well as I would have wanted (our hero still ends up sexless), but the world of the movie is able to exist as one single entity apart from everything else. I’m thinking of some of the best of Ozu, specially the episodic way in which the story is told and the contrasting rhythm between scenes.