Directed by Phil Alden Robinson
Written by Daniel Taplitz
Starring Robin Williams, Mila Kunis, Melissa Leo, Peter Dinklage
A good test of the level of enjoyment you can glean from this project comes a little over half way through the movie, when Robin Williams’ character (more of in a minute) stands on the edge of the Brooklyn Bridge, threatening to jump to his death. Some of you may think this is a waste of life, a pointless suicide, a tragedy that could have been avoided. Others in the audience, given the opportunity, might just want to give him a gentle, encouraging push to help him make up his mind and thankfully end this for everyone involved and those watching too.
And the polarising opinions should not come as any great surprise, as The Angriest Man In Brooklyn doesn’t really know what story it wants to tell, how to tell it, or how it wants to make you feel. There is a plot of sorts, a graspable narrative, but the script is as wooden as quite a bit of the acting. Part comedy, part tragedy, part farce, the film hops a little too daintilly between these varying approaches and subsequently seems lacking in value in any of them.
The story tells of the late afternoon from hell for Henry Altman, who is already having a bad day when we meet him, stuck in traffic, on the way to a Doctor’s appointment that will, unknowingly, change what remains of the rest of his life, forever. After a smash with a taxi driver (not his fault), the film opens looking like Michael Douglas is going to get out of the car behind Williams, all briefcase, spectacles, buzzcut and spitting vitriol. A mentally exhausted man, who has, frankly, just had enough, is not to be trifled with.
But Robinson chooses not to go down this route, as screenwriter Taplitz is taking inspiration from another movie entirely, The 92 Minutes of Mr Baum, written by Assi Dayan. When Henry meets his substitute Doctor, Sharon Gill (Mila Kunis) who is working a double shift convering for Henry’s actual Doctor (and also her lover), he has already been waiting for two hours. Unsurprisingly, he is angry and gives her both barrels. When she tells him he has an inoperable brain aneurysm, he chastises her unfairly but strongly, and she becomes both flustered and annoyed at him, advising him that he has only ninety minutes to live…
Now, just wait a minute. Let’s back up for moment. He has been waiting for two hours? He has now been told he has ninety minutes to live? Does this smack of professional courtesy to you? Well, it doesn’t to me. If he had been seen earlier (on time) would he then have had three and a half hours to live? Or should he have been dead for half an hour before she walked in to tell him his rather unfortunate fate. Why didn’t the angriest man in Brooklyn pick her up on this? Anyway, I digress…
As Williams narrates the thoughts now rushing through Albert’s head, some seemingly short-lived disbelief raises its comedy head for a moment. It doesn’t stay for long as he unbelievably swallows what he has been told and goes about making plans about how to spend his last hour and a half. The rest of the film is spent following him around Brooklyn as he tries to have one last bash at sleeping with his wife (Melissa Leo) (not likely) and making up for his previous emotional distance from his only remaining son, Tommy (Hamish Linklater). Dr Gill, of course, quickly realises the error she has made and so begins her own quest to find Henry to tell him of her mistake in professional judgement.
Williams’ performances of late are much rarer than in what you could describe as his heydey and his own brand of anarchic comedy and his hedonsitic approach to tragedy are already well known. The script here does not do Williams any favours at all and his delivery has become more subdued as time has gone on. The motormouth you may remember from the likes of Disney’s Aladdin for example are long gone and whilst there is a valiant attempt at re-creation here, it does little to convince he has much faith in the content. At least, no more than the rest of us.
Supported well enough by Mila Kunis, the film rarely feels like the race against time it is purported to be, failing to light a spark under the audience. This is not helped by the painful script that has the likes of Osacr winner Melissa Leo almost palpably wincing even as she reels it off. Peter Dinklage too suffers from inhospitable lines that even he, with his immense talent, has trouble passing off as credible.
In all, a disappointing experience that fails to engage emotionally at any level. The attempt is there, but having seen Williams really shine, this is a dull imitation of a man that can do so, so much better. Kudos for effort should go to the cast for sotically refusing to let this one go the way it probably should, but honestly, I would have pushed him off the bridge too and got at least some comfort that I had only wasted half the time.