Friday, February 09, 2018

Entanglement: Mental Illness and Quantum Mechanics

There is nothing cute or quirky about mental illness. The truth is, it can be a gravely serious matter. This film belatedly comes to that realization, after first forcing us to sit through some wildly misplaced rom-com tropes. It is definitely safe to say Ben Layton is plagued by emotional issues. His two unsuccessful suicide attempts would be our first clue. However, the Amélie-like pixie his parents briefly adopted might help him right his pathetic, meaningless life in Jason James’s Entanglement (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

Layton is stunned to learn his parents had briefly adopted Hanna Weathers when they had finally given up on conceiving, right before his fetus unexpectedly announced its development. They quickly returned her (maybe they got a store credit or something), focusing on their neurotic bundle of joy instead. They never planned to tell their moody son, but his father accidentally let it slip. Somehow, Layton gets the notion in his head that everything in his life would have been better if he had a big sister to help guide him.

With the help of his long-suffering neighbor Tabby Song (who for some inexplicable reason, often comes over to tidy up his flat), Layton tracks down his would’ve been sister. It turns out Weathers is an attractive Holly Golightly figure, who shares his burgeoning romantic interest (she offers up some overwritten rigmarole about molecular entanglement, by way of explanation). There is no problem with any of that, because they were never related. Of course, Weathers has a secret of her own that is quite problematic in its way.

Screenwriter Jason Filiatrault has actually written an inventive and intriguing third act, but getting there is sheer water torture. The forced cuteness that comes before is absolutely nauseating and it appears moral questionable if you don’t stick around for the full picture.

Sadly, lead actor Thomas Middleditch makes that sticking around a painful chore to endure. It would be less unpleasant to watch algae for an hour than spend time with his abrasively neurotic persona. It is also borderline offensive to have a bright, charismatic screen thesp like Diana Bang playing such a subservient role—enthralled to a nebbish nothing like Layton.

Eventually, Jess Weixler’s Weathers also gets interesting, but first she must go through the motions of all the usually free-spirited clichés. The notion that she could possibly be attracted to a mopey sad sack like Layton is beyond incredible. Yet, somehow everything almost all comes together down the stretch.

Frankly, Entanglement looks like a film that should have spent much more time in the script development phase. If it were consistently darker and ditched the cutesy affectations, like the animated deer, it would probably add up to considerably more. At least the film dispels the hate it initially stokes, which is something. Way, way too much of a misfire to recommend, Entanglement opens today (2/9) in New York, at the Cinema Village.