Saturday, November 7, 2009

John Krasinski Turns Hideous

John Krasinski plays the affable, everyman Jim Halpert on the enormously successful show, "The Office". Halpert is funny, clever and engaging. John Krasinski is also the director of the David Foster Wallace adaptation of "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men", which opened at the Kendall Theatre in Cambridge last night. Krasinski popped in to say hello between evening shows and to discuss what it was like directing the film we were about to see. First, if you are an Office fan, you'll understand what I mean when I say that Krasinski is Halpert and vice versa. Krasinski energetically jogged onto the stage to the fond cheers of the sold out venue (we were told five times that it was a sell out, but why were there about 30 empty seats?) and immediately began to joke around. He led the audience on a Happy Birthday singalong for one of the audience members and thanked the crowd for the non-stop flashing pocket cameras that blinded him during his fifteen minute appearance. Krasinski too is funny, clever and engaging.

And then the movie. Scattershot scenes of brief interviews with various men set against a white cinderblock wall and in front of a large pitcher of water and a small silver tape recorder were spliced in with glimpses of the Julianne Nicholson character at gatherings and in and around a New Englandesque university. We learn that she is the interviewer, the main character, and Krasinski's (yes, he's in the film too) former lover. We hear a series of shallow, often self-absorbed men offer their own explanations in which Nicholson attempts to find meaning for her own lost love. There are moments that are truly funny, as when one of the men admits that he shouts, at the top of his lungs, "victory for the forces of democratic freedom!” right at... the most inopportune time. There is one long, but moving, sequence in which one character lovingly describes the humiliation of his father, a bathroom attendant to wealthy men of a bygone generation.

"Hideous" is a film adrift, looking to connect the pieces together into that one aha moment, which proves as elusive as Nicholson's attempt to understand why her boyfriend drifted away from her in the first place. Ultimately, it is a film that leaves you pessimistic and unsettled.

And it left me wishing the Office Krasinski had stuck around a little longer.

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