Review: Are You Here
You are here, indeed, standing in a putrid mess of sexist, offensive drivel dressed up as a romantic comedy.
The insipid thread that runs through Are You Here, Matthew Weiner’s film directorial on a script he wrote, will leave a bad taste in your mouth and an ache in your head. Proud pig Steve Dallas, a cocky womanizing weather man who borrows money, spies on his young neighbour, and talks behind the back of everyone he knows, is somehow our protagonist and sympathizing character.
Played with arrogance by an irritating Owen Wilson, Dallas has one friend, his longtime smoking buddy Ben, and he is there for Ben the way you’re there for someone you want to take advantage of. Steve travels with Ben (Zach Galifianakis, playing Zach Galifianakis) to the pastures of Annapolis after Ben’s father passes away.
While taking time off from lazily doing his job and hustling women, Steve makes plans with Ben’s inheritance, chastises his house maker sister Terri (Amy Koehler) and mocks everything from vegetarianism to animals to religion to the Amish, and of course women.
The woman who is the target of his slimy teasing and wandering eye is the widow; ahem, the 25-year-old widow. Played with grace and strength by Laura Ramsey, who is the only woman in this film given at least some backbone and sense of self, Angela is a spiritual, loving, and caring individual who found affection and enjoyment from an aged man.
So of course she is assumed to be a gold digger and constantly, mercilessly reduced. But she is actually a decent person, and she wants nothing from the deceased; it’s Steve who wants everything and goes so far as to manipulate Ben.
Utterly disgusting exchanges take place between Steve and Angela that are some twisted mind’s version of courtship, curiosity, and love. He spies on her in the tub, he demean while drunk and high, and in a transformation that could only happen in a movie, this independent, young, confident, and beautiful woman for reasons unknown takes to Steve.
In fact, she needs him. Not for the cooking or cleaning she is constantly seen doing, but because Ben is staying with her in this countryside home, and maybe he is unstable and still grieving – whatever will she do? She certainly can’t make decisions for herself.
Yes, she needs a man that constantly lies and cheats, even towards Ben, his only best friend. Ben’s mental troubles often take a backseat to Steve’s pathology, but he certainly has some issues too. He goes through cultish ideas of what to do with his massive inheritance, and continues to be an inconsistent amalgamation of libertarian, anarchist, and communist beliefs.
Nowhere in this infuriating, reductive poor excuse for a movie is there any meaning, in part because not only the characters not believable, they are neither likeable nor consistent. Are You Here serves only to bloviate and condescend; it offers up women as objects of sexual voyeurism and as second-class citizens, bowing to the wills and double standards of men.
There is no tangible, believable change, only musical cues and montages to indicate growth – artificial growth. While Ramsey may be the only breath of fresh air in this unsettling romp in the mud (even Poehler is wasted, playing a sniveling housewife), her character is slowly devolved and she can’t keep up with the power of Wilson’s ability to suck the life out of every scene. When the title asks you its generic question, hopefully the answer is no.