Sometime an artists whose primary output is writing tries their hand at directing, with mixed results. In the case of Stephen Gaghan’s Abandon, the results are flat out miserable, all across the board when you consider that he wrote the thing too. Katie Holmes headlines the murky tale of a girl whose mysterious ex boyfriend (Charlie Hunnam) resurfaces to creep her out after disappearing years before. The film is steeped in darkly shot, choking scenes of mumbling gloom that I suppose were an attempt at atmosphere but just cloud perceptions and numb over any chance of tension or thrills. Holmes has always been a huge talent and she does her best here but you can only do so much with material this bad. Benjamin Bratt plays a hunky detective who gets a bit too involved in her case than he probably should, and ends up standing around looking confused most of the time. Hunnam, whose acting style has always irked me, tries to do the deep dark brooding bad boy thing here, and comes across as listless and bored, his motivations never made clear beyond lurking with vague intent. Just as an example of how humdrum it all is: Fred Ward plays Bratt’s superior officer and when he’s introduced in a dimly lit precinct, he’s literally just sitting on the floor against his desk, looking like he gave up with the script, tossed it in the dustbin and is waiting for them to yell cut so he can call his agent and finally get the next Remo Williams film underway instead of appearing in gothic Hallmark trash like this. It’s interesting because Gaghan showed great promise after this by directing the phenomenal Syriana, then subsequently waded back into the mires of mediocrity with his next feature, Gold. He’s uneven as a director, and this is the lowest point for him. The whole thing fits the title, really; it’s like they Abandoned any hope of making this half decent and just cloaked it in as much hollow, portentous energy they could muster up and hoped no one would notice that there’s no substance to back up the style. The ending is as empty as the rest of it, there’s no resolution, twist or aha moment, it just ends in thin air. Avoid.
Yes Man is a loaf of fluffy, inconsequential Wonderbread amidst a career of denser comedic pumpernickel for Jim Carrey. Most of what he does has weight to go along with the laughs, and if it doesn’t it still has a raunchy bite that always hits below the belt. This is one of the few times he treaded lighter, a tone which can also be found in Fun With Dick & Jane, but that’s just not a good movie. Yes Man has merit in fits and starts, and it’s harmless fun for most of the ride. Carrey plays the consummate negative Nancy here, a guy who spends the better part of his time turning down offers, cancelling plans, avoiding people and saying no to everything. This all changes when he goes to a dodgy seminar preached by batty self help guru Terence Stamp. Inspired by his slightly odd teachings, he challenges himself to say yes to everything, and I mean everything, for one whole year. This gets him into all sorts of trouble, and steers him to the obligatory 180 shift in his character arc, and his own enlightenment. Guzzling red bulls after an all night club bender, guitar lessons, sexual favors from his experienced elderly neighbor (Fionnula Flanagan), driving a homeless dude (Brent Briscoe) to the middle of nowhere and giving him like two hundred bucks, life is just more fun when you say yes to everything, as Carrey quickly finds out. He also meets cutie pie Zooey Deschanel, whose initial amusement towards his lifestyle quickly turns to exasperation when his affirmative nature gets just a biiit too crazy for her. It’s all in good fun, and while most of it isn’t memorable or super noteworthy, there is one particular scene that makes the entire film worthwhile: Carrey has an awkward kiwi of a boss (Rhys Darby) who is constantly inviting him to cosplay parties. The moment he accepts is a symphony of quirky mannerisms, scotch taped facial grimaces and absurdity that is pure Carrey and could be used to sum up his career in half a minute. Watch for work from Danny Masterson, Spencer Garrett and Bradley Cooper. Like I said, it ain’t gonna rock your world like many of the iconic, beloved Carrey films, but it’s an amusing diversion with some scenes that do bring it home.