First Slipstream, now Dedication—another example of David Lynch’s groovy surrealist vernacular flying over the head of one of his actors. Justin Theroux’s directorial debut stars Billy Crudup as a children’s book writer who’s clearly messed up in the head, but the rationale for why he sleeps with a stack of books on his chest, or casually reveals why masturbation depresses him and carrots scare him, is never up for discussion. A psychologist might diagnosis Henry (Crudup) with a severe case of OCD—hence his particular way of organizing condiments and directing conversation—but the film’s anxious editing points to psychosis. After his best friend and illustrator, Rudy Holt (Tom Wilkinson), passes away, Henry continues to converse with the man, usually near a massive steel globe that makes for a good location but nothing else. Similarly, a beaver is the star of Henry’s successful children’s book—plucked, yes, out of thin air by Rudy and Henry while they’re looking for a marketable image to foist onto impressionable youth but probably chosen by screenwriter David Bromberg because it allows for a scene where Henry gets to tell a little girl that beaver also means vagina. That scene is actually rather funny, but Henry’s propensity for saying everything out loud isn’t special because everyone in the film is afflicted with the same snarky disorder: Henry’s book editor, Arthur Planck (Balaban), throws into a casual conversation that he makes a good goose reduction, and Carol (Weist) tells her daughter Lucy (Mandy Moore), who is handpicked by Arthur to illustrate Henry’s new Marty the Beaver book, that she hates cartoons because they’re sinister. Though smug and attention-grubbing in equal measures, inviting comparisons to Burr Steers’s abhorrent Igby Goes Down, Dedication at least deploys the darling chemistry between Crudup and Moore to good effect, softening the blow of the dialogue’s mean-spiritededness.
- The Weinstein Company
- 93 min
- Justin Theroux
- David Bromberg
- Billy Crudup, Mandy Moore, Tom Wilkinson, Martin Freeman, Dianne Wiest, Bob Balaban, Bobby Cannavale, Amy Sedaris, Peter Bogdanovich
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