Magnolia Pictures

Reviewed for Shockya by Harvey Karten. Data-based on Rotten Tomatoes

Grade:  C-

Director:  Pascal Chaumeil

Screenplay:  Jack Thorne, based on Nick Hornby’s novel

Cast:  Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots, Rosamund Pike, Sam Neill

Screened at:    Dolby24, NYC, 6/25/14

Opens:  July 11, 2014

Nothing makes much sense.  Is “A Long Way Down” a comedy about depression, suicide, and paralytic disease?  Does having suicidal impulses in common make for solid friendships?  Is there anything in the script that adds up to more than banal chatter among four people with little in common?  Who knows?  Pascal Chaumeil’s adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel—the volume available on Amazon as an audiobook that received a surprisingly good review from Publishers Weekly—simply does not work as a movie.  Perhaps this is because the characters are annoying rather than interesting, while a customer hearing only the voices does not see just how insipid the people really are.

The four characters in search of meaning are presented both together and in separate stories.  Martin Sharp (Pierce Brosnan) was a TV talk show host who, having gone to prison for sex with an underage girl loses his job, his family, and his pride.  Maureen Thompson (Toni Collette) is a middle-aged woman with no social life who cares for a son whose illness has made him a vegetable.  Jess Crichton (Imogen Poots) is just a wacko with a rich, politician father acting out teen rebellion to an unhealthy extreme.  And J.J. Maguire (Aaron Paul) is a nice-looking, hip rocker whose band did not make it and who lost his girlfriend.  People with more serious problems than this quartet have lived happy lives.  These people, however, will have to learn to overcome their separate neuroses by hanging out together for six weeks.

The story starts in London on New Year’s Eve.  Martin Sharp climbs to Topper Tower with the aim of throwing himself over, a long way down.  Sweating and thinking, he is interrupted by a woman, Maureen, who demonstrates her London-style politeness by asking him to do the deed so she can take her turn.  When J.J. and Jess show up on the roof—the former with no justifiable reason for suicide except teen rebellion, the latter simply because he lost his band and his girl—they make a pact to abstain for six weeks, Valentine’s Day, and hang out with one another to make sure the agreement is carried out.

The press gets the word, particularly because of Martin’s fame or notoriety, which gives Jess the chance to make up a story about being saved by a naked angel who looks like Matt Damon (ho ho ho).  Jess’s politician father (Sam Neill) makes a few scenes adding to the dull dialogue in a movie that evokes the saying that misery loves company but updated that proverb by adding that when miserable people get together, they can cure one another. In other words, four negatives make a positive.  A quick vacation in Majorca is all that’s needed to firm up the group’s bond and to give everyone the will to live.  Welcome, Hallmark Hall of Fame. Exit, a credible story with either sufficient gags or understandably melodramatic moments.

Unrated. 96 minutes.  © 2014 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – D

Acting – C

Technical – B

Overall – C-

A Long Way Down

By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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