Wednesday, July 29, 2009

He's The Man With The Answers To Life's Mysteries

Hollywood has been willing to take a chance with unknown directors, some have been successful while others make direct to video trash. Now first time director John Hindman brings a rare gem to the silver screen, a small market independent movie that is touching as well as entertaining. "The Answer Man" is a movie that gives its heart and soul and asks for nothing in return. There are only a few movies that can make you laugh and move you at the same time, this movie may well be one of them. The movie doesn't push religion or anything else, it just asks you to believe in it's message and take it for what it implies, that no one man has the answers to life great mysteries.

Arlen Faber (Jeff Daniels) is the self imposed reclusive author of Me and God, a book that has redefined spirituality for several generations, and his follow up books have all been translated into hundreds of languages. On the eve of the 20th anniversary of his still wildly popular book, Anyone who reads it thinks that Arlen has all the answers to life's problems, but these days the author barely ventures outside of the house. Arlen is still sought after as the man who has all the answers, but he of course doesn't want to be bothered. Arlen suffers from an ailment that reduces him to crawling across town to a doctors office for treatment, the doctor, Elizabeth (Lauren Graham), is a single mother struggling to raise her seven-year-old son, and Arlen is taken with her simple way of making life magical. Arlen also runs into another man, Kris (Lou Taylor Pucci), fresh out of rehab, he is still wondering why he bothers with everything, Kris has a father who is also an alcoholic. He owns a used book store that Arlen comes into to try to sell some books, when Kris can't buy them Arlen tries to just leave them on the shelves.

Elizabeth has done such a great job on fixing Arlen's problem that he keeps going back, when he works up enough courage he asks her if she would like to go for a walk with him, she agrees and they walk around, ending up back at Arlen's house he shows her his collection of monster memorabilia, she tells him to spread it around the house instead of keeping it locked away in a small cabinet. When Kris feels his life has hit rock bottom he confronts Arlen and tells him he will take a couple of books if Arlen can answer his questions. Arlen agrees reluctantly, Kris comes back everyday with another question, and Arlen gives him the books when he is done. Arlen takes Elizabeth out several times and even meets her son Alex (Max Antisell) this one kid exudes charm and charisma where no other character does, his performance is one of the best in the film.

Arlen understands what it is like for Alex, Arlen has just lost his father, and Alex's father has walked out on them, when Alex asks him how long two weeks is, you heart will ache for him. Elizabeth is with Arlen when Kris comes over, he has just suffered a loss of his own and he doesn't know how to react to it. Arlen can't find the words, so it is up to Elizabeth to help Kris in his time of need. Elizabeth sees Arlen for what he is, she tells him she has to leave, Arlen realizes what he has done and when Elizabeth calls him to go pick up Alex he is more than willing, but when she comes to thank him, Arlen once again just confronts her with his idea of what she should be doing for Alex. Elizabeth doesn't want his advice and walks out.

Arlen comes to his senses and remedies the situation, he asks forgiveness of the people he cares about and by doing this he opens himself up to exposure. He makes the first public appearance in his life. His fans show up but when Arlen tells them he don't have the answers, everyone is heartbroken, Elizabeth leaves the store but is followed by Arlen. Of course the ending is the sugary sweet happy ending that Hollywood thinks we all want to see. Maybe we would like to see the truth reflected once in a while, life isn't easy, the answers are not always there and happy endings, if they come, are as rare as four leaf clovers.

I give The Answer Man a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 1, this movie is light on emotion and heart but it has depth, some of the characters are introduced and we never see their real potential, it's like here I am and nothing more, Arlen is the heart of the movie but his character is the weakest by far. This is still a good movie to watch, it doesn't require you to do any thinking, it leads you from point to point and requires nothing from you.

The Answer Man is rated R for Language
Running time is 1 hr. 35 mins.

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