Film Review – Brief Interviews With Hideous Men

by thespaciousherbacious

Think The Office is years past its prime? Wanna smack that searing smirk off Jim’s sneering face? You aren’t alone. Actually, I’d say that you are among thousands or hundreds of thousands. But maybe John Krasinski wasn’t meant to carry a series like this singlehandedly, or play starring roles in flicks like Away We Go or License to Wed. If 2009’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men – based on late David Foster Wallace’s 1999 collection of short stories – is any indication, I think he should park himself behind the camera from now on. Krasinski also plays the role of the main character’s ex, the catalyst of her obsessive research into the minds of men. Although it sounds a major part, like nearly all the other characters in the film, he is undeveloped – quite intentionally, I might add – with only an informative monologue to go by. All the same, I watched the film not knowing who the director was, and when Krasinski’s full-hearted monologue (of sorts) stepped onto the stage at the tail end of the movie, I couldn’t help but think – being a fan of Mad Men – that, ‘Jon Hamm would kill this scene.’ To my chuckling surprise when the credits rolled, Krasinski had directed the joint aptly, and just had to snatch that cameo role.

It was a cameo among cameos, though, as the intriguing ensemble cast is one of the most attractive attributes to the masses for this independent Sundance film. Julianne Nicholson of Law and Order: Criminal Intent and Boardwalk Empire plays the disconnected, disenchanted lead, with guest roles from Will Arnett, Timothy Hutton, Christopher Meloni, Will Forte, Frankie Faison, Corey Stoll, and Rashida Jones. It is a film composed of disjointed interviews of people answering questions that are left off the reel – following the protocol of the book – providing Krasinski with a hefty directorial challenge. How do you go about shaping a movie with a protagonist for the audience to attach to when said protagonist is solely an observer conducting surveys? And surveys where we don’t even hear her ask the questions, to boot. Some might say he has failed to meet this difficult challenge, but I would pose that those viewers failed to step up to the plate on their end of the experience. The way the film is shot and spliced together begs the viewer to take center stage and actively evaluate and create their own questions and answers about love and the mindsets of men and women. However uncomfortable the subject matter may be, the viewer has an unspoken duty here to spill their heart out…if only to themselves. And that is the beauty I find in this adaptation.

As an aside, it’s also refreshing to hear Cold War Kids’ “Every Man I Fall For” as soon as the credits appear. The song is perfect for both the content and mood of the film – a vacuous and distraught form of anger, betrayal, or apathy, whichever best fits the thoughts you conjured and perhaps relived upon actively watching. By providing this environment of questions and past experiences, Krasinski (with the help of source material from a modern master) showed he’s got more to him than a snide smirk, and on his debut effort on top of that.