Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, and Amy Poehler in a new film written/directed by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner; I had high hopes. Too high. Are You Here is a story about two friends, Steve and Ben, who travel back to their hometown after the death of Ben’s father only to find that he has inherited the entirety of his father’s massive fortune, leaving his sister, Terri, high and dry.Wilson plays an alcoholic, womanizing, local weatherman. Baggage for days. For me his performance was a watered down version of every other Owen Wilson character. Now don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a funny guy. I can watch Wedding Crashers all day long. But in this, something felt mundane and ordinary. As for Poehler, I am a huge fan. I think the problem with this role is that she was under utilized. Their wasn’t enough of her presence to make a big enough impact in the narrative as a whole. I would have liked to have seen more intimate interactions with Galifianakis.In the role of the 25 year old, granola crunching widow is Laura Ramsay. A genuine performance. An interesting character that is almost a guiding hand for each of the subsequent characters in the film. Tough shoes to fill but she glides gracefully into the role.The winner of this film is Mr. Zach. My bearded, lovable, thought provoking Zach Galifianakis. This is one of the most nuanced, honest, beautiful performances I’ve seen in a while. He is the Don Draper of this story. I almost didn’t need anyone else in the film. The elegant progression of Ben is stunning and this is the heart of the Are You Here. Bravo, Zach.The pacing of the film is a bit tough in the beginning, but does exponentially ramp up as you watch. Major props are definitely due to Weiner for tackling the taboo subject of mental illness with humor, respect, and truth. I admittedly laughed out loud, but in the end, for me, something was missing. Do go to see a masterful performance by Zach. That alone, is worth the price of admission.
ARE YOU HERE opens Friday, August 22nd.