Ronny (Vince Vaughn), the main character in The Dilemma, has to figure out how -- or even if -- he should inform his best friend and business partner, Nick (Kevin James), that Geneva (Winona Ryder), Nick’s wife, is cheating on him. The dilemma Ron Howard, the film’s director, has gotten himself into is that he’s giving off the vibe that this is a comedy when actually it’s the drama in this situation that interests him the most.
Certainly the casting alone would lead you to believe this is supposed to be a silly comedy -- nobody turns to Kevin James or Vince Vaughn for heavy dramaturgy. They’re two likable film presences, but here they don’t share much chemistry, comedic or otherwise -- it’s hard to buy that the two characters have been friends for decades.
For his part, Vaughn has to do the heavy lifting. He’s in just about every single scene of the movie, and he’s certainly comfortable with that, scoring laughs with his typical motor-mouthed playful aggressiveness as well as with physical comedy in a well-staged, clumsy fight with Channing Tatum, who plays Geneva’s lover, Zip.
As Ronny struggles with the unwanted info he has discovered, he’s starting to have trust issues with his longtime girlfriend, Beth (Jennifer Connelly), who begins to worry that her suddenly unreliable beau might be suffering a relapse with his gambling addiction. And adding to the stress of it all, Ronny and Nick are trying to make a deadline for the car engine they’re developing so that Dodge will give them a big contract. All of these elements clutter a story that’s already aiming for both belly laughs and tears.
By the time all of the characters are brought together, and hidden truths are finally exposed, Howard -- with screenwriter Allan Loeb -- could have either built up a big head of farcial, comedic steam, or slowly squeezed the audience until we’re ready to pop from dramatic tension. Instead they’ve tried to find a way to mix the two, and in doing so they fail at both. The energy of the film is dour, even while the gifted comic actors are going for throwaway giggles, and the result is a film that lays there flat on the screen even though everyone involved is giving it all they’ve got. leave a comment --Perry Seibert