Saturday, December 20, 2008

YES MAN

The time is right for a movie like Yes Man. The more connected and media obsessed we've become, the more disconnected and dispossessed of social contact we've ended up. Twitter, MySpace, Facebook; laptops, iPhones, Direct TV. All of these things have their benefits, but the unintended consequence is a culture full of head-down shufflers and shut-in mumblers. "I'll just buy it on Amazon" ... "I'll let that one go to voice mail" ... "I'm gonna wait until it's On Demand". Even the undervalued experience of browsing inside a record store is slipping away. The tactile pleasure in holding an anticipated New Release, eye contact with fellow customers, the sound of cross-chatter. Yes, technological progress is great, and convenience is a virtue rarely frowned upon, but soon enough we may miss those awkward run-ins at the bookstore.

Carl Allen (Jim Carrey) is a man who's worked hard in the first third of his life in order to reach that peaceful plateau where he can disappear. Graduate, get a college degree, settle in with a company, work your way to that high five-figure salary bracket, then ride that wave until the end of your life. On paper that's not a bad plan, but is it human? Similar in moral to Along Came Polly and this year's barely seen Chaos Theory, Yes Man proclaims "no", and that a life lived through the weighing of options is a life wasted. Accept everything, refuse nothing... even if it's a denture-free blowjob from your neighbor granny. (Yes, awkwardly, that really happens in Yes Man.)

The bulk of Yes Man plays out like two other gimmick-driven Jim Carrey comedies: Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty. In all three, a curse or gift is thrust upon Carrey's character as he spends the rest of the movie reacting to regular everyday encounters and routines under the influence of his new found power. Because of this plot constraint there's not enough time for writer Nicholas Stoller to shift around the socially significant chess pieces introduced in the film's opening. But credit Carrey for making Yes Man a watchable, if not a winning, movie. As with Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty, the jokes in Yes Man aren't funny, but it's fun watching Carrey maneuver his way through the weak material. Give the guy some quality (Me, Myself, & Irene, and Eternal Sunshine) and it's much easier to tell why he's one of our greatest modern actors.

Age has added character to the face of Jim Carrey. His mouth now holds deeper parenthesis when he smiles and there is an overall droop to the mug that once made the facial contortionist a multi-millionaire. Strangely, director Peyton Reed gives Carrey a bang-swoop head of hair that contrasts with the rest of his features. Apparently Reed was concerned with Carrey appearing too old beside his younger co-star/Yes Man love-interest Zooey Deschanel, who is eighteen years Carrey's junior. But even forgiving the noticeable age gap between the two, Deschanel comes off clumsy in her scenes opposite Carrey. Blessed with those wide, striking, chocolate eyes, Deschanel's performance still feels out of sorts, as if she's staring into the abyss of her limited range.

Having lacked an impressive performance since Elf, Peyton Reed milks the hipster crush appeal of Deschanel and puts her in scenes that play to her new found indie-rock cuteness. (If don't you think sensitive rock boy types won't be running to theaters this weekend a la girls from the Robert Pattinson/Twilight craze, you'd be mistaken.) As Allison, Deschanel is the lead singer of an avant-pop group Munchausen by Proxy, teacher of a "running photography" class, and paints to relax. She makes the perfect lifestyle match for the born-again Carl, but to the audience something still feels wrong, and when Yes Man gets to their final film-ending reunion, you heart understands the pull Carl feels towards Allison, but your head is saying "No, man, no!".

7 comments:

Slayton said...

I think Zooey's voice is her drawback - she's not very versatile vocally. But she definitely has a talent for juggling different moods in a particular scene. No one can go from comedy to drama and back again as interestingly and easily as she does.

Slayton said...

But, as for not having a worthwhile performance since "Elf", she was pretty good in "All the Real Girls" (very good, in fact) and "Eulogy".

Fox said...

Slayton-

I did think Zooey was funny in The Good Girl, but since then I've enjoyed her more as a straight supporting player. I can't remember a time I enjoyed her in a leading role... like in Winter Passing, say. Will Ferrell stole scenes from her in that movie.

I'll have to respectfully disagree with ya on All The Real Girls though, Slayton. Not a fan of that movie, and that extends to the performances of all involved. Although I do like all of the the actors in other films.

Rick Olson said...

the abyss of her limited range? the abyss of her limited RANGE?

I love Zooey Deschanel. Every chocolate-eyed inch of her. Of course, it's a chaste love, as if from afar ...

Wait a minute, it IS from afar.

Fox said...

Rick-

Bless the cute woman, but where has she showed range? Maybe I will give you The Good Girl, but where else?

I think you've been staring to long into those chocolate eyes...

Greg said...

actually, Zooey has blue eyes. maybe if you directed your eyeline a couple more inches upward whenever she was onscreen, you'd notice.

Fox said...

Greg-

Those are just contact lenses. The producers knew that her dead-eyed glare might appear even deader with totally brown eyes, so they glued them on.

And I mean TOTALLY brown. No white in the eyes... just darkness.