I’ve got a 40 in my hand, and I’m pouring it out on the pavement in remembrance of the indie sensation that was Greta Gerwig.
Her proverbial sellout starring role in the halfhearted Arthur remake, following a harbinger supporting turn in No Strings Attached, means Gerwig as we know her is dead, another life lost to the harsh, ghetto streets of Hollywood. Now she can no longer be hailed as the mumblecore princess of Hannah Takes the Stairs, Nights and Weekends and Baghead. In those films she played pretty much the same character, a misunderstood, somewhat neglected hipster girlfriend type who would melt your loins with her smile and mutter likely improvised dialogue that made her seem impossibly intelligent.
In Arthur, playing a bohemian tour guide caught up in a bad romance with a billionaire playboy, she recites trite, likely workshopped dialogue with a polite disdain that brings to mind a high school drama teacher plowing through a monologue penned by her student. Either she’s disinterested or a poor actress, but either way she’s about as effective and convincing as Survivor’s Colleen Haskell in Rob Schneider’s The Animal.
The least Gerwig could have done was to have fun selling out, like her co-star Russell Brand, who seems content to make a career of channeling Johnny Depp channeling Keith Richards channeling a lifetime of chemical abuse. Brand as Arthur, the careless, womanizing drunkard who’s an heir to a giant corporation, is a young Jack Sparrow, happily skipping off the plank into banality.
The remake of the 30-year-old comedy that earned Dudley Moore an Oscar nomination may just earn Brand a Razzie, but damned if he wouldn’t probably attend the ceremony to claim his award with a face-stretching grin. His assignment in the film is to open his eyes wide, act like he’s slizzered and try to rescue as many dud lines of dialogue with his cutesy British parlance as possible.
Helen Mirren is the only one in the movie who actually bothers to act, but even she detracts from the package because she makes her character seem as though she’s accidentally wandered in from some other, more important movie playing on the next screen over. She plays Arthur’s nanny who dutifully shepherds him out of one drunken mess after another, first urging him to comply with his arranged marriage to a corporate sociopath (Jennifer Garner), then gradually starting to push him Gerwig’s way.
The movie made me laugh more than it had any right to, sometimes due to Brand’s twisted delivery, and others by the simple appearance of Luis Guzman as his pathetic assistant, but goes on way past its welcome and rarely coalesces into something more entertaining than a baseball game in which you care about neither team.
In college I knew a guy named Arthur. He was a drunken idiot like the movie Arthur, although not as rich. People called him Artie, Artie, the One-Man Party, and he mistakenly took the nickname as a compliment, oblivious to its implications that it meant everyone else just sort of tolerated his presence but kept looking at their watch, wishing he would leave. There’s a reason this movie reminded me of him.
Starring Russell Brand, Luis Guzman, Jennifer Garner, Helen Mirren and Greta Gerwig. Written by Peter Baynham, based on a story by Steve Gordon. Directed by Jason Winer. Rated PG-13. 110 minutes.