Directed & Written by: Brian Shoaf
Starring: Zachary Quinto, Jon Hamm, Jenny Slate and Sheila Vand
Run Time: 1h 29min
2 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
This is the story of an unstable man named Josh Norman, played by Zachary Quinto. He’s plagued with hallucinations of his brother, Craig (Hamm), who mistreated him when they were younger… or so Josh thinks. Craig, now a famous actor who Josh believes is morphing into other people, mocking and following him, actually takes care of Josh by sending him money, money that always purchases drugs for Josh that a therapist prescribes but doesn’t necessarily get Josh the true help he needs. What he needs is family and to be seen and loved; to know he’s seen and loved. I had many problems with this film, first of which is that with the amount of talent working on it, these actors should have been used better. They were great, don’t get me wrong, but the film they’re in leads you on a road to nowhere.
It opens on an owl watching an aardvark. Okay. That’s a metaphor for brothers Craig and Josh and you’re curious but, more to the point, it starts with such promise, however, by the time you’re halfway through Aardvark, you realize it isn’t going anywhere and your original thought of giving up on it fifteen minutes ago, should have been listened to. I assumed, by looking at the cast, that this was going to be quite good. I generally do approve of everything Hamm, Quinto and Jenny Slate, (who plays Emily, a therapist Josh starts going to) work on. I can’t say that’s the case with this movie. I had hoped it would be a hit, especially for Slate, as I respect her work so much that I’d like to see her continue to get larger roles but this movie might have been the one for her to skip… for them all to skip.
Enjoying the tone of the film in the beginning, you do like the characters and build a relationship with them but, unfortunately, the narrative between Emily and her patient becomes strained and consequently hard to believe. Director Brian Shoaf creates reasons for you to like Emily and then gives you all the reasons why you shouldn’t trust her and therefore, the story of Josh being unhinged falls apart to a degree.
Emily and Craig meet and she starts to speak on behalf of Craig to Josh and vice versa but also she falls for Craig. Maybe Josh just needs a new doctor? Eventually, you can’t help but wonder if the paranoid man is being gaslighted by everyone around him. Not that this would be remotely possible but is everyone around him in on it? His rich brother could be paying people to make him crazy. The thought will cross your mind as the muddied script doesn’t get to the point until you’ve already checked out. Even when he meets Hannah (Vand) you wonder if this person really exists. That can be vaguely intriguing as he truly is under the impression his brother can transform himself to be anybody he wants but when the storyline provides you with hope, it then tears everything back down, trying to be a crafty love story but falling short of leading you to believe it’ll win you over in the end.
Perhaps this would have been better with some time to focus on which genre the script wanted to truly be. It’s frustrating as an audience member watching the filmmaker searching for the true voice of the film. The director needed to lead us. It isn’t good if he’s conflicted and this film was all over the place.
*Opens Exclusively at Harkins Shea 14