Hey Winona, it’s good to see you! It was pleasing to see you had a bit role in the acclaimed The Black Swan (even though you managed to escape without any en pointe scenes). It’s not, however, so pleasurable to see you in The Dilemma. Actually, it’s not much fun to see anyone in Ron Howard’s weak and thoroughly unfunny comedy. That’s doubly so for Jennifer Connelly and usual fast talking funny man Vince Vaughn.
Ronny Valentine (Vaughn) and Nick Brannen (Kevin James) are best friends and business partners. Things are going great for them; a possible megaproject is on the horizon with GM, Nick is happily married and Ronny is thinking about proposing to his longtime girlfriend Beth (Connelly). Unbeknownst to Nick, his wife, Geneva (Winona Ryder), has been having an affair with a meathead named Zip (Channing Tatum). The dilemma in The Dilemma is Ronny knows of her infidelity and is convinced telling his buddy will sink their company. What to do . . . what to do. As I see it, any sane man would do one of two things: Sleep with his friend’s wife as payment for remaining silent or tell his friend about the affair, consequences be damned.
Ronny, of course, does neither, choosing instead to snoop on Geneva (and later Nick), so we can laugh at how he finds himself in those oh so awkward situations. Cos, let’s face it, without them, there is no film to watch. And for the sake of your good taste, I’m not going to go through all the ridiculous scenarios he finds himself in; all I’ll say they’re not funny (the scene he causes at a wedding anniversary party is partially so) and they ultimately lead to him looking like the bad guy. Which is a strange (and a most unintended) twist because Ronny is supposed to be the main protagonist . . . or is he? — I stopped trying to understand his motivation long before the movie ended.
Worse, is Vaughn’s quick wit and sharp tongue (qualities that make him one of the more bankable comedic stars today) can’t save a damn thing. As his girlfriend, Connelly, better at the dramatic pieces, has great screen presence and manages to salvage something of her role but she isn’t exactly given a whole lot to work with. No one really is; for married couples and best friends, no one seems to know who they are, who they are with or how to communicate with one another. Everyone takes a number, waits for their turn to jump to an ill-founded conclusion and retreats to stand in line again.
The Dilemma, perhaps seemed like an easy re-entry into the comedy realm for the accomplished Ron Howard (his last entry was more than ten years ago). And maybe it’s that time off that is where the stumble is — he is indecisive on how to balance the serious stuff with what should be light and amusing. This makes for some uncomfortable scenes that drag on far too long for the punch line — a punch line that, more often than not, isn’t much of a punch line at all. I’m more than sure Allan Loeb, the writer, carries a good portion of the blame too. Someone needs to ask him where the closure for Geneva is — she is quite literally dropped from the movie even though she is at the crux of the dilemma.
There is, however, a reason The Dilemma was released in January, typically the black hole month for movie industry — the studio knew they had a stinker on their hands. How right they were; how right they were.