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William H. Macy is one of the most talented actors working today. He’s done such a variety of characters, and he’s terrific in them all. He’s been in some of my all-time favorite movies: Boogie Nights, House of Games, Fargo, The Sessions, Mr. Holland’s Opus, and the grieving father in Room a few years ago.

He’s directed a few things before, but I was especially excited to see this one, in which Macy also has a juicy part as a father to Taylor Ogburn (Nick Robinson). They’re a dysfunctional Southern family, and Taylor isn’t just dealing with their craziness, but a bum ticker. He has a heart condition that, when he gets anxious, could kill him. That means instead of going off to college, he stays in his small town working at an art gallery.

When he sees Krystal (Rosario Dawson) coming out of an AA meeting, he does what any of us would probably do to meet her — he goes to the next meeting. It’s a bit awkward when his boss (Kathy Bates) sees him there, which creates a cheap running gag about her always thinking he really has a drinking problem.

One of the problems my wife and I had with Call Me By Your Name is that the age difference between the two characters made us feel like the romance was creepy, not romantic. The age difference between these two characters is the same, but it works for the story. That’s because Krystal rolls her eyes at this guy trying his hardest to get her attention. In Call Me By Your Name, it was the older guy, a colleague of the father, seducing a boy that’s a virgin.

Krystal’s also a former stripper, junkie, and prostitute, so we figure she can handle herself when it comes to dealing with the awkward clumsiness of a goofy kid trying to be smooth. Oh, she also has a son (Jacob Latimore of Maze Runner and Detroit) that’s only a few years younger than this kid (but looks and acts a lot older).

The plot thickens when an abusive ex-boyfriend named Willie (played by rapper T.I.) comes into town. And just as I had problems with I, Tonya playing domestic abusive for laughs, it’s troubling here; especially since it’s a similar premise to In the Bedroom (Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson). That deals with a teenager dating a woman in her 40s (Marisa Tomei), and her abusive ex-husband smacking her around, and eventually killing the kid. In that film, it was deadly serious. In this movie, it feels like they’re attempting comedy with these scenarios.

It’s also hard to truly root for Taylor when he is basically, also stalking Krystal. Just because we know he’s young and naive, doesn’t make us just love the way he is sometimes passive-aggressive with his manipulations, and always shows up where she is. Especially since one of the “a’s” in AA stands for “anonymous.”

It’s strange that with such dark material, the comedic turns the movie made actually worked for me most of the time. One of them involves an ER doctor (terrific character actor William Fichtner) who doesn’t seem to care much about his job, and also seems stoned half the time.

The problem with all the attempts at humor was that it sometimes undermined the story, and some of the scenes felt like a TV movie. It just got a little too cheesy at times. For example, during the AA meetings my wife asked, “Is this an AA meeting or Toastmasters?” She said that before the cameo by former NBA star Rick Fox went up and gave an impassioned speech. It’s some of the things he says in his speech, that moved the crowd, that the youngster uses to seduce Krystal. I’m guessing there will be a handful of female viewers that don’t think that’s such a cool move. Especially since you’re dealing with a woman that’s struggling with demons.

The movie is original enough, and has enough clever lines that you won’t feel like you wasted your time watching it. But with such a stellar ensemble (which also included Grant Gustin as the artist brother, and Macy’s real life wife Felicity Huffman), I would’ve liked a better script.

2  stars out of 5.



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