Padding Out a Dilemma
The basic premise of The Dilemma -- a man sees his best friend's wife cheating on him, but struggles to let him know -- actually has a lot of comic and dramatic potential, but you wouldn't know it from Ron Howard's film, which takes on both comic and dramatic tones but delivers them awkwardly and clumsily.
It doesn't help that the set up of the movie feels completely contrived: Ronny (Vince Vaughn) is at a botanical garden making preparations for a proposal to his girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Connelly) when he spies his friend Nick's (Kevin James) wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) making out with some other guy (Channing Tatum). As it happens, Ronny and Nick are business partners working on an invention to sell to a car company, and Nick, having difficulty dealing with the pressure, needs to focus to make the deadline. So, Ronny can't tell Nick because that might add to his stress and possibly wreck their business venture, and he can't confide in Beth because it might reveal his proposal plans.
Actually, this isn't really a dilemma -- it's clear what Ronny should do, but he can't do the right thing for one reason or another. Every time he gets past one reason, another bad reason comes up. Oh, and of course, he had a gambling addiction in the past, so everyone thinks his increasingly weird behavior is symptomatic of that.
It's bad enough the movie has the feel of being overwritten just to be able to justify its plot points and comic highlights, but Howard's handling of the material also appears to be tone deaf. It's difficult for the viewer to tell if he or she should be laughing at Vaughn or feeling bad for him; if it's both, then that's a terrible miscalculation.
The movie might've had some insight to offer about the importance of honesty in relationships, but it's confounded by comedic scenes that aren't funny, dramatic scenes that feel insincere, a dark mood that only adds discomfort, and a tendency to overstate the motives and emotions of the characters. The Dilemma actually presents more of a puzzle, as it feels like a throwaway effort by everyone involved.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated "PG-13" for thematic elements involving sexual content.)
Review also posted at ww.windowtothemovies.com.