It’s nice to know that it’s a rare moment when my mother questions my maturity. It’s also a good sign that other people find me relatively mature. And should I ever have a downfall in terms of this maturity, I will take heart in knowing I will never be as slovenly, drunk, or caddish as Arthur Bach, played by Dudley Moore in the original film from 1981, and by Russell Brand in the 2011 remake.
Often balking at his stupidity (in terms of choices), his negligence, his pure drunkenness, the audience will probably, as I did, find that the role of playboy Arthur Bach was tailor made for Brand. Brand is a (seemingly) drunken, crass, English comic and actor, who has appeared in such movies as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Me to the Greek. And now he has his starring role, reprising basically the other two roles, but with more quippy lines.
And that’s what this movie is, for most of it: quippy. It is line after line, funny though they may be, of quippy, sardonic, bizarrely articulate lines and pieces of dialogue from Brand, occasionally from his nanny, Hobson (the great Helen Mirren), and some bitchy lines from his fiancée, Susan (Jennifer Garner).
The story goes like this. Arthur is rich. Arthur is drunk. Arthur spends frivolously. Hobson babies him. Hobson cracks joke. Arthur verbally retaliates with another quip. Arthur is called to office by mother. The two quip back and forth. Arthur must marry a woman he basically despises in order to keep the $950 million family fortune. Arthur agrees. Arthur meets free spirit in illegal tour guide/aspiring children’s book author Naomi (Greta Gerwig). Don’t worry, I’d never heard of her either.) Arthur falls in love. Mother displeased. Arthur determined to love Naomi. And so on.
It’s all rather predictable, and the movie is, to be honest, very clumsily made, and very badly written. Yes, the dialogue is excellent, but the character development is almost non-existent for anyone but Arthur. Even Arthur’s development falters halfway through. Naomi, though cute as she is, seems like she was very lazily written, like a child half-heartedly making a person out of play dough. The kind of “oh-I forgot this part, but oh well” kind of development. It felt fake. The chemistry wasn’t very real either. Helen Mirren, on the other hand, while she was good for what material she had, her character couldn’t decide whether she was a tough, sardonic nanny, or one that has a maternal nature about her. It was like she had bipolar disorder, and no fine line as to what caused which personality to be emulated. This is fairly odd, considering that Mirren usually makes most movies watchable, simply because of her presence in them. But, even she seemed to strain at the bit.
There may be some sort of moral problem, but it’s probably just me. Arthur seems like a playboy one minute, and a forever man child the next. Again, the movie can’t decide which one he is, or even make either a smooth transition from one to the other or a hybrid of the two archetypes. The lines seem suited for Brand’s British, kind of dopey sounding voice, which transforms the lines into lyrical poetry. Having said that, his actions undermine every plausibility of the script, every tender moment. And moment that’s supposed to be “real”.
And towards the end of the movie, it gets all melodramatic. I shan’t divulge in specifics, but all scenes of melodrama and heart seem tired, weary, and not genuine. This is because the constant, incessant sardonic quips undermines every heartfelt moment. Even scenes that would be incredibly sobering, such as Arthur’s visit to an AA meeting, seem halfhearted.
The one highlight of the movie is Jennifer Garner, who plays Arthur’s bride-to-be. With little motivation, or real motivation to drive a movie, Garner unleashes her inner beeyotch out and wreaks carnage on the lives of Arthur and his swell Naomi. Her smile is as fake as the drama in the movie, but, this time, it’s a good thing. She delivers her lines with a smirk and a wink, kind of like she wants to kick you in the crotch when she says them. And, if anything, it makes her all the more charming.
In essence, this is a movie that is funny if you enjoy line after line of sarcasm pouring out of the mouth of a drunk. But the jarring quality of its characters makes the movie that much weaker. It’s a disappointment, which is to be blamed primarily on the screenplay and its major lack of character development. But, thankfully, Russell Brand does have some dry wit. However, it does not salvage the movie from its clumsiness. Mirren’s quote from the movie can apply to the writers, it seems: “It’s the drunk leading the blind.”