I will basically see anything that has Amy Poehler in it, and sometimes that can be an unfortunate thing. In the case of Are You Here, also starring Owen Wilson and Zach Galifinakas, it turned out to be a very unfortunate thing. I’m not going to sugar coat it: I hated this movie. For perhaps the first few minutes I thought it might be good, but alas, it turned out to be superficial crap that was trying to hard to be simultaneously funny and deep. In fact, the only exciting part of the film was when was a fellow critic got punched in the face during the screening.
Essentially the story goes like this… Ben (Galifinakas)’s dad dies, and he inherits all of his dad’s money. Ben’s sister (Poehler) is understandably upset that she worked hard her whole life and her freeloading brother is getting all the money. Ben’s best friend Steve Dallas (Wilson), a local news weatherman, comes to take care of Ben in his time of need (but really to secure his portion of Ben’s money). Steve falls in love with Ben’s young, hot step mom, Angela (Laura Ramsey), because, well, there always has to be a love story?
I had a hard time enjoying this film because there is nobody here to root for. It tries to let us have sympathy for Ben, because although he’s a freeloader with absolutely nothing going on in his life, he is bipolar. Being bipolar, while certainly a hardship, should not in and of itself excuse a person from being a functioning member of society. Even if it did, Ben refuses to take his medication, which just makes him idiotic.
Steve is a narcissistic asshole whose strongest motivation in life is to see women’s breasts. Look, I understand having a healthy sexual appetite and enjoying the naked human form – but this is a bit ridiculous. The lengths with which Steve goes to see boobs honestly made my skin crawl. At one point he actually gets a historical oak tree chopped down so he can see into his naked neighbor’s window. And yet, the film centers around him and we’re supposed to see things from his perspective.
Amy Poehler’s character is villainized by both Ben and Steve, yet she was the only character that garnered sympathy. She actually is a hard worker, who just wants to make sure her brother doesn’t throw all of her father’s money away. We also get to see her trying very hard to have children, a step of extra hardship we don’t see from any other character. It seems like the film wants us to hate Ben’s sister, but then thought it would be cool if we see she’s not so bad after all, look at her struggles. In reality, all this did was solidify my liking of the only sympathetic character. The film could have benefited from moments of real hardship from some of the characters it actually wants us to like.
And then there’s Angela. Don’t even get me started on this male fantasy bullshit. Super hot, giving, love-the-earth and everyone on it granola type. Who for some reason falls in love with the narcissistic asshole who’s in love with boobs. I… I can’t.
Now that you know what a disaster these characters are, let’s talk about the structure of the film, which was odd. It felt like a coming of age story, but for a 30-year-old. Nobody wants to watch a movie about a 30-year-old who is just becoming a man. That’s just sad!
Even if that wasn’t the case, the movie just felt imbalanced. The ending felt like it should have been the midpoint. Steve Dallas spends the entirety of the film drinking like he needs alcohol at all moments in order to stay alive, then because his hot dream girl wants him to get sober, he stops drinking at the very end and gets the girl. Let me make this very, very clear: Steve Dallas did NOT deserve the girl.
The film tries incredibly hard to be deep and intensely prolific, but in every instance these “quotable moments” come off as insincere. To put it lightly, I found Are You Here to be a subpar piece of crap.
Marla Pachter is a comedic writer, obsessed with all things television. She doesn’t discriminate against TV shows, which either results in pleasant surprise or an eviscerating review for your reading pleasure. Marla loves Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine Nine, and she will probably be watching new seasons of Grey’s Anatomy until she’s 90. Sometimes she writes TV shows herself, but they don’t air on television. She also likes big butts and she cannot lie. (That was a lie). @MarlaPachter