The Dilemma (2011) Review

The Dilemma strikes me as a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be. It has all the makings of a buddy comedy, something that Judd Apatow would be comfortable making. The central actors are two that are synonymous with comedy, Vince Vaughn and Kevin James. Unfortunately, the story itself never really goes to the comedic extreme it could.

It feels like a difficult story to get comedy out of anyway. Vince Vaughn realising that his best friend’s wife, played by Winona Ryder, is cheating on him, then struggling with the dilemma of whether he should tell him or not. It’s a struggle because it doesn’t really feel like that much of a dilemma.

Vaughn’s character seems to be making too big a deal out a problem that could have been solved immediately.

From the moment he finds out, you feel that the situation would be resolved if he just told his friend what was happening. There are of course extenuating circumstances that means it’s not going to be the easiest or most straight-forward of decisions, but in the end, the events that unfold just feel unnecessary.

It also feels like it wants to take itself seriously. A comedy with a hint of drama. The best way to play this is to go for the full extreme and be very silly about it but there is always this menacing undertone, with characters suffering from addictions, a marriage in crisis and a career defining invention and presentation. It means that it never really feels like a full on comedy, or have the guts to be a full drama.

The comedy actors in the film could have delivered a full-on, proper comedy.

It’s a shame because it has the heavyweights for either. Its directed by a man who can do drama with no issue at all, Ron Howard. Vince Vaughn and Winona Ryder can do serious acting and it could have been the chance for Kevin James to show some acting credentials too. Instead, we have a strange mix of comedy and drama that never really gels.

There are some glimpses of great comedy. This is probably the earliest opportunity to see what Channing Tatum can do when it comes to comedy. He is in some of the best scenes, particularly when he is chasing Vince Vaughn around his flat or showing up to a very awkward intervention.

An earlier, comedic success for Channing Tatum.

The other actor who shines is Winona Ryder. She relishes the evil edge she gets to portray and does a great job of having you root for Vince Vaughn to find a way to break the news to his unaware best mate.

These are little moments in a film that doesn’t really deliver. It has some of the ingredients to make a very good comedy but it’s probably in the wrong hands. If it was being directed, or even produced, by Apatow, then maybe the mix of drama and comedy would have fit together slightly better.

Overall, a comedy that wants to be a little bit more serious when it should have actually gone in the completely other direction, extreme and silly to offset the more sombre story. There are some great actors in the film and everyone ably performs, with some great turns from Tatum and Ryder, but it never really saves it from feeling like a missed opportunity.

Rating 2.5

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

The film should have been either drama or comedy, not trying to be a mix of both.
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