The Dilemma | Guilty pleasure
Ron Howard’s much-maligned Chicago comedy isn’t the movie audiences expected.
A potential career killer had it been headlined by lesser stars, Ron Howard’s spectacularly sour, Chicago-set comedy doesn’t qualify as a guilty pleasure in the traditional sense: There’s no shame in liking it on the terms it sets out for itself. But those weren’t the terms audiences expected; the movie wilted after a soft opening in January and is currently hovering at a pathetic 4.9 out of ten user rating on IMDb. A more appropriate term might be film maudit: a movie that alienates audiences largely because it doesn’t compromise. Whatever else you might say about Howard (whose name has become synonymous with middlebrow filmmaking), he has the stones to make a genuinely ugly film about the secrets friends keep from each other.
Vince Vaughn stars as Ronny, a commitmentphobe salesman on the verge of closing a huge electric-car deal he’s worked on with his engineer best friend (Kevin James). After discovering that James’s character’s wife (Winona Ryder) is cheating—in the Garfield Park Conservatory, no less—Ronny selfishly wavers on whether to reveal the news. (His buddy’s mind needs to be on work, after all.) It’s a decision Howard is happy to have you hate him for, and it provides grist for much darker humor than the ads suggested. Of course, Howard has rarely produced less than a polished product, and The Dilemma (written by Allan Loeb) is perfectly funny when it wants to be. Vaughn’s Lincoln Park street fight with Ryder’s character’s lover (Channing Tatum) is a hilariously protracted duel of inept brawling and half-assed taunts. (Vaughn: “You’re garbage!” Tatum, as if suddenly realizing Vaughn is right: “I’m…not….”) And Ronny’s toast to his fiancée’s parents, unfunnily excerpted in the trailer, deserves a spot in the cringe-laugh hall of fame. Available on DVD and on demand Tue 3.