a white man and woman stand in a living room looking surprised
Credit: Music Box Theatre

A not-very-successful writer and her sister sneak up on her husband as he shops for socks and overhear him saying he doesn’t like her new book. They had been a sickeningly happy couple until this inadvertent revelation, but it causes the writer to question everything and everyone that she knows. Has everything in her life up until then been a lie?

Because this writer is played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, there can’t not be funny scenes, but in between the occasional zinger—having Jeannie Berlin, David Cross, Amber Tamblyn, and Michaela Watkins in the cast doesn’t hurt——there’s very little holding this paper-thin comedy together. Nicole Holofcener has excelled in building her films around complex women, which makes it especially baffling to watch Louis-Dreyfus flounder so badly as a character who doesn’t seem like a writer for a single moment, has no chemistry with her husband who she supposedly adores, and interacts with her grown son as if they’d just met. The only lived-in moments occur when real-life couple Cross and Tamblyn bicker during therapy sessions run by the writer’s husband. They end up demanding their money back because he hasn’t helped them in the years they’ve been coming, and it’s no wonder, because he doesn’t seem like a real shrink. 

This is a movie that takes place in the wish-fulfillment New York of Friends and Woody Allen, where failures can somehow lead luxury lifestyles. It feels so much like a sitcom that I kept waiting for the second- and third-camera shots to kick in. Definitely one to watch the way most people do with SNL: wait till the highlights hit YouTube and skip the rest. R, 93 min.

Music Box Theatre