Director: Miguel Arteta
Starring: Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Stephen Root, and Sigourney Weaver
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 26 min.
However, it’s also a film with a bit of an identity crisis. Director Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl; Youth in Revolt) mines yucks from contrasting a clichéd conception of aw-shucks Midwestern mores with the universal ugliness of human greed and frailty. Obviously, decadence and moral decay are not strictly bicoastal phenomena. But, in exposing the underbelly of flyover country for laughs, Arteta and writer Phil Johnson – making his feature debut – uneasily straddle the line between satire and snark.
Following the untimely death of his all-star coworker, insurance salesman Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is required to venture beyond the confines of his small Wisconsin town to the bright lights of
Naïve to the point of delusion, Tim is a goody two-shoes who sports sweater vests and never drinks alcohol, but at the same time is having a fling with his former seventh-grade teacher (Sigourney Weaver), with whom Tim declares he is “pre-engaged.” He has never flown on a plane, stayed in a hotel, drank in a bar, or apparently been in the company of a professional African-American like his convention roommate, Ronald (a marvelous Isiah Whitlock Jr., The Wire).
Tim also finds himself teamed with AMSI regular Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly), a boozy blowhard holding a deep cynicism for his profession and the faith-based values being foisted by his fellow conventioneers. Together, Ronald and Dean act as the angel and devil on Tim’s unsophisticated shoulders, guiding him into – and out of – the seedy side of town, the insurance game, and the reality of how the two-diamond award is won.
Helms and Reilly’s comedic timing and energy carry
The film’s true revelation is Anne Heche, an actress whose underrated ability has always been overshadowed by her tumultuous personal life. Here, she plays Joan, a married insurance agent who uses this soirée as her annual escape from the pressures of marriage and motherhood. Heche fashions the most three-dimensional character in
Although they form an unlikely cadre, the four leads are each regular people bound by their shared aspiration for greater glory and a diversion from the stifling demands of everyday. For them, and many,
*Originally published at http://goo.gl/HfFzg