Directed by: Ron Howard
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly
As timely and intriguing a particular subject may appear on paper, the implementation of said subject into a film of any type can bring about several issues regarding its execution. The addressing of certain issues can often be misconstrued regardless of their narrative significance, and even the most serious of moments can be disregarded in favor of an inappropriate sense of humor. Ron Howard’s The Dilemma, while deftly tackling the issues of marital infidelity and the importance of friendship, fits this particular description perfectly by not quite knowing how to carry itself throughout its particularly bloated run time, even in spite of everything it does well.
Sure, witnessing a best friend’s wife committing adultery before your very eyes is an admittedly traumatic experience. Even more traumatic would be watching that same friend’s marriage crumble on account of your meddlesome ways, which is precisely why The Dilemma‘s darker moments come off as authentic and more appealing than the generally unfunny attempts at comic relief it throws at us. This isn’t to say the film is completely unfunny; I laughed all of four times after all, but the fact of the matter is the jokes aren’t nearly as subtle as they should be in order to maintain an evenness of tone.
Even more perplexing are the not-so-subtle twists the narrative throws at us in an honest attempt to hold our interest. After all, why ruin a good thing by unnecessarily complicating matters more for our already suffering protagonist? Such a question obviously didn’t cross the minds of the powers that be, yet the additional conflict they bring about did manage to pique my interest amid all their silliness and some glaring pacing issues. As for the resolution of said conflict, it’s as predictable and shopworn as can be, yet to end the film on an altogether sour note would further overshadow the little it does right.
Now I’m almost positive the question on everybody’s mind is this: Does Vince Vaughn manage to reprise the same role he’s played all his life? The answer is, surprisingly, an emphatic no. In addition to the impressive range the man puts on display as Ronny, Vaughn interacts with his costars in a noticeably restrained manner, rarely hogging our attention that’s periodically supposed to be diverted elsewhere. A tinge of his trademark buffoonery does rear its ugly head here and there, but it turns out that James is the perfect counterbalance to such a flaw given his own track record. Unfortunately, both of their characters aren’t all that interesting, and one can almost sympathize with Ryder’s character’s decision to run around on her sheltered, insecure and mostly unlikable husband. Additionally, the efforts of Ryder and Connelly are slightly above par, further preventing the film from falling flat on its face even if The Dilemma‘s faults outweigh its strengths.
Although it sports an interesting enough central premise, The Dilemma is altogether a substandard mess. Instead of delivering in the realm of effective comedy, Ron Howard’s half-baked dramedy functions a whole lot better during the blacker moments found throughout the uneven and oft uninteresting narrative. Thanks to the absurdity of certain risks the film takes, it ultimately fails to be everything it could have been, regardless of the well-intentioned efforts of a very likable cast. Finding out your wife’s been cheating on you with someone half your age isn’t the greatest to say the least, but to be honest, neither is watching The Dilemma.