Directed by: Ron Howard
Premise: A man (Vince Vaughn) discovers that his best friend’s wife (Winona Ryder) is having an affair. As he tries to decide how to handle this knowledge, the secret wrecks havoc on his own life.
What Works: The performances of The Dilemma that really stands out come from Kevin James and Winona Ryder as the troubled couple. James shows much greater acting range here than he has in the past and Ryder alternates effectively between being sadly empathetic and cruelly manipulative.
What Doesn’t: The Dilemma is a disappointing effort by Ron Howard, who is usually an interesting filmmaker who creates original and compelling films. The Dilemma is neither and it may be the first time Howard can be accused of lazy filmmaking. (Even The Da Vinci Code, as bad as it was, at least had ambition.) This film starts out with a great ethical crisis for its lead character but throughout the middle of the story, The Dilemma fails to create any credible tension around the secret held by the protagonist. Instead, the story sets Vaughn’s character on some very stupid misadventures that don’t seem motivated by plot or by character so much as they are goofy scenarios invented by the screenwriters to fill time. A lot of the laughs of The Dilemma aim for awkward humor but so much of it is so painful to watch that it turns off the audience rather than engaging them. The conflict of the story never really moves beyond the initial scenario; although the film introduces some interesting subplots, such as the protagonist’s past gambling problems, these are not carried out to a relevant conclusion.
Bottom Line: The Dilemma is a mediocre film. It presents a compelling scenario but what should be a comedy of errors is just an error-ridden comedy that isn’t very funny or insightful.
Episode: #326 (February 13, 2011)