Are You Here (2013) – Review

Directed by Matthew Wiener
Written by Matthew Wiener
Starring Zack Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Amy Poehler, Laura Ramsey
Two childhood best friends embark on a road trip back to their hometown after one of them learns he has inherited a large sum of money from his recently deceased estranged father.

 There are lots of places on the internet that you can check out the reviews for Are You Here. Why you would want to, especially if you’re living in the UK and are unlikely to see it anytime soon, is something else entirely. What you will find will not enamour you to it, either. The general opinion of this project is not good.

Comments suggesting that ‘nothing happens’ are quite well founded, if we’re honest, but some have gone so far as to suggest that the performances by our two male leads are undercooked, which I have to say I disagree with to an extent. Zack Galifianakis’ character Ben, for example, is very pleasing to watch, even if his transformation from pothead to straight-head and the method by which he achieves this seems a little unlikely, not to mention sending a particularly suspect message about the general benefits of prescription drugs.

When Ben’s (Galifianakis) wealthy father passes away, he is not exactly at the greatest point in his life. He lives in a trailer, rarely ventures outside long enough to be spotted and grows an unhealthy amount of cannabis in his toilet, as well as an unfeasibly bushy beard. These life choices would seem to suggest to us that he is something of a waster and you can well believe it, when you compare his life to that of his friend Steve (Wilson), a weatherman on a national news channel. Okay, so Steve has his own set of problems, not least having an inability to commit or hold onto his very healthy paycheck for any longer than it takes for his latest hooker to knock on his door.

These two have been friends for life and you guess they must have been as otherwise they would have nothing in common with each other (aside from a deep appreciation of the evil weed) and would likely have never run into one another in the normal demands of their respective days.

As it is, Steve feels responsible for Ben, and the friendship they share is obvious, warm and cheering, in spite of their respective faults, so when Ben gets the fateful call about his fathers passing, who better than Steve to drive him up to his fathers home for the funeral and the reading of his will, where we meet Ben’s sister, dragon-lady Amy Poehler, and his fathers young, insanely pretty second wife, played by Laura Ramsey.

What transpires from here is a surprising turn of events for everyone as Ben is left the bulk of his fathers’ estate, which appears to be a vast amount, part of which he promises to Steve. Whether he is actually of sound mind himself is questionable and whether Steve should accept the offer based on this very fact is something of a moral dilemma that is never really approached with any kind of reality.

The larger portion of the film is spent as the family (and Steve) come to terms with the loss of the father/husband that has bestowed all of this wealth on Ben particularly, who seems to be the least deserving of any of them, if we’re brutally honest. This dawdling, often aggravating script, does drag on occasion and despite this featuring three great comedy talents, the laughs are far too rare to satisfy fans of the stars on show. The love interest for both Ben and Steve is, somewhat alarmingly, Ben’s stepmother Ramsey, though how much stock you put into the realism here is up to you.

Performance-wise, Galifianakis is excellent as the permanently bewildered Ben. Wilson’s turn is less impressive, but also less demanding, as Steve is not forced to jump through the same emotional hoops as many of the rest of the cast, so this does him no favours when getting the chance to show his range. 

As a story it is sublimely simple and as such may well draw criticism just purely for the lack of events portrayed. The character development is almost non-existent, save for Ben, who as I mentioned, changes to such an extent, you will have difficulty actually believing it yourself.

On the whole, a difficult film for the impatient, but there are still pearls to take from it, like Galifianakis’ performance and just how darned good Ramsey looks in a flowing summer frock. Aside from this and we’re reaching for anything more, but as a piece of afternoon television programming on Netflix etc, this will keep you entertained, if certainly not enthralled, for a couple of hours.




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