January 21, 2009

Written by Cady Heron

Back when John Krasinski was studying at Brown, he was a part of a staged reading of David Foster Wallace’s anthology of short stories Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. The profound experience he had convinced him to pursue a career as an actor. You’re welcome, quirky and misunderstood Officefangirls.

Now it’s all come full circle. Krasinski adapted Wallace’s book into a screenplay, cast his favorite New York theatre actors in the parts, and directed the project. Don’t worry–he’s acting in it, too. However, Krasinski describes Subject #20 as “the most hideous man in the film,” so don’t expect him to leave you feeling all ooey-gooey inside. You’re not his real-life Pam, anyway, sweetheart.

Brief Interviews stars Julianne Nicholson as Sara, an anthropology doctoral student who is conducting interviews with various male subjects as part of a research project. The film is non-linear, jumping back and forth in time between the interviews and Sara’s personal life until the two merge together–every male Sara interacts with becomes a participant in her study, whether he is aware of it or not.

The standout performance belongs to Dominic Cooper, who you may remember from The History Boys and Mamma Mia!, among others. Cooper plays Daniel, a student of Sara’s who writes a rather offensive paper for her class. To me, Cooper’s scenes feel like the most authentic part of the movie. Count me as a fan.

I hate to say it, but, besides Cooper, the film doesn’t really work for me. The interviews feel like separate vignettes that are almost completely unrelated and not actually that interesting. Krasinski cast some very talented actors, but didn’t give many of them all that much to do. For example, fellowOfficecast memberRashida Jones makes an appearance as practically a glorified extra.Also, the film is supposed to give us insight into Sara’s character through her interactions with all of the horrible guys she meets, but I think the information divulged by male characters says something only about them, and nothing about Sara.

The film doesn’t attempt to explain much beyond the sentiments that most men are shits and that women are survivors of their heinous deeds. This feels too easy to me; it’s a cop-out. However, I have to give Krasinski credit for seeing this project through. It was damned ambitious of him. I’m just not so sure that Wallace’s book is meant to be experienced through a feature film adaptation.

—- C

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