ARE YOU HERE written and directed by Matthew Weiner, with Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Poehler and Laura Ramsey. A VVS Films release. 112 minutes. Opens Friday (August 22). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: N
Having attained TV godhood by creating Mad Men, Matthew Weiner was in a position to do almost anything he wanted in his feature debut. Which is why it's so infuriating that he chose to make Are You Here, an incoherent, fraudulent dramedy that strands a host of talented actors in a dead zone of half-baked ideas and flat dialogue.
Since the film's rejection with a vengeance at TIFF last year, when it played as You Are Here, the words in the title have been swapped around - but it's the same godawful movie.
Annapolis TV weatherman Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson) is always drunk or high, and sleeps with many women because he's handsome, cynical and empty inside. (But he's totally not Don Draper, because it's the present day.) His best friend, Ben (Zach Galifianakis), a bipolar pothead determined to change the world, inherits a few million dollars when his father dies yet seems on the verge of total collapse.
It's stunning that, while Wilson and Galifianakis have played these roles half a dozen times before, they can do absolutely nothing with them. As Ben's sister, Amy Poehler is stuck being a shrill antagonist, though Laura Ramsey (The Ruins) does her best to make Ben's 20-something stepmother more than the empty sex object both Steve and the movie want her to be.
Worst of all, though, is the moral chaos at the script's heart. Are You Here is a movie where a character has a moral awakening after killing a chicken for food, while another character's shift toward responsibility is signalled by his abandoning his vegetarian diet for some fresh-roasted meat.
And let's not even get into the movie's take on substance abuse: booze and weed are bad but powerful anti-psychotics are just peachy.
Weiner doesn't even know what he wants to say, let alone how to say it.