Here’s an attempt to make a film where the audience has to get involved with many characters for an ending payoff. One problem with the movie, the title says it all, Answers to Nothing. Taking a shocking event and building a story around it can be very entertaining, but not if it gets overly complicated and that’s what happens in the film.
Here is writer/director Matthew Leutwyler’s short synopsis of the film as provided by the studio. “Against the backdrop of a missing girl case, lost souls throughout Los Angeles search for meaning and redemption and affect each other in ways they don’t always see”.
How convoluted does Answers to Nothing get? The characters do not fit the cycle that the synopsis describes. We have random roles that try to connect, but tend to tell their own story without any depth. Ryan (Dane Cook), a shrink, is married to Kate (Elizabeth Mitchell) a lawyer who wants to have a child but their only chance involves in vitro fertilization. Since Ryan has been having an affair with Tara (Aja Volkman) making this complicated fertilization process work has been quite the challenge. Detective Frankie (Julie Benz) has been assigned to a missing teen case and finds herself overwhelmed by it, but has a hunch it’s Beckworth (Greg Germann) the missing girl’s next door neighbor. Drew (Miranda Bailey) has been depressed over her fight to retain custody of her brother with the help of her lawyer Kate. Evan’s (Zach Gilford) a childlike character that doesn’t know how to identify a female dog from a male dog yet finds himself connecting with the complicated Allegra (Kali Hawk). Allegra has a lot of issues that she has been taking to Ryan; especially that she hates black people even though she herself is African American. Carter (Mark Kelly), a teacher in the middle school, feels he has been a looser in life and has visions of being a hero even if it is only on his computer game. Finally, Jerry (Erik Palladino) is a troubled cop with a notion that he can get even for the death of his wife.
It’s nice to see Barbara Hershey (Ryan’s mother Marilyn) in a movie again, but what a waste of screen time for the icon. Her part is so small and needless that it’s disappointing that she cannot lend her fine support to the film. But, that’s the case of others in this film, especially the romance between Evan (Zach Gilford) and Allegra (Kali Hawk) that could have easily been eliminated with the right editing tools thus shortening the lengthy movie a bit. The scenes of Evan’s character are unimportant to the plot and do nothing for the Allegra character.
The film is peppered with unresolved meetings and needless information bogging down the circle of redemption and heroism. I found the affair between Ryan and Tara very unrealistic and awkward instead of something meaningful to the two of them. Jerry the cop is a great character and could have been developed more to add credence to why he wants to help Carter. Drew’s story could have been a stand-alone short film. Aside from the heroism by Carter that does evolve within the missing teen storyline, Drew’s relentless need to give her brother back the opportunity she lost for him makes up the best part of the film.
The direction by Leutwyler of his chaotic storyline proves interesting at best as all the information has been provided, but it tasks the brain on how all the many pieces fit. Luckily I saw the film on a screening copy and able to replay the movie to make more sense of it, but who can afford to see the film twice at a movie theater to make sure all the stories in this convoluted story are meaningful. This isn’t the Sixth Sense or Crash, although with the right script it could have been. My recommendation, wait till the DVD comes out and rent the film at a Redbox.
Answers to Nothing has been rated R for some strong sexual content, nudity, violence and language.