By Chris Minitelli
Although the recent film “Are You Here” goes to great lengths to move audience members and teach a valuable lesson, it did not leave viewers feeling any differently than when the movie began.
Starring Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Poehler, the movie follows an Annapolis weatherman named Steve Dallas, played by Wilson, who is childhood friends with Ben, a marijuana-growing wannabe philosopher, played by Galifianakis. Early in the film, Ben finds out that his father passed away, which leads him and Steve to return to their small hometown. During his visit, issues arise as Ben’s sister, Terri, played by Poehler, tries to challenge their father’s will, which left millions of dollars of land to Ben.
What the audience later learns is that Ben is bipolar and struggles with coming to terms with taking his medication. Surrounded by what feels like a whirlwind of problems, Steve also goes through a number of challenges himself. In the end, each of the characters learns something about themselves and each other.
With such a dense plotline, the writers of “Are You Here” tried extremely hard to teach a lesson to the audience. The film starts off as a relatively light comedy, sprinkled with lots of pot jokes. However, it quickly turns into a darker, more serious film, about personal struggles and mental health issues. This drastic turn in both tone and message was completely unexpected and quite frankly unwelcome. The writers seriously missed the mark with appropriately and realistically approaching this sensitive subject. Since I was caught so off guard with this drastic turn, I could not reasonably believe anything that happened in the rest of the film.
Along with the poor writing, the acting in “Are You Here” is abysmal. I felt that even the casting was poorly done. The three leads all seemed out of place throughout the whole film. In my mind at least, Galifianakis has certainly been typecast, as he usually plays very similar characters in all of his works. While the beginning of “Are You Here” has him in his usual role, his character eventually takes a much more serious turn, which then makes Galifianakis seem very out of place and weak. Along with this, Poehler also seems completely out of her element in a more dramatic role. I found it very difficult to take Poehler seriously.
In the end, “Are You Here” is a film that will certainly not make any waves or mentions, as it went pretty much unnoticed in theaters. The film is categorized as a comedy, but it is difficult to consider it one. At the same time, it is difficult to take it serious enough as a drama. With poor writing and acting, “Are You Here” is a movie that I would certainly recommend to skip renting.