Directed by Bernie Goldmann and Melisa Wallick
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Elizabeth Banks, and Jessica Alba
You get the feeling sometimes when watching a film that when the filmmakers first showed off their finished product to someone, their audience must have been a blood relative. It’s the type of film that isn’t necessarily bad, but it is very rough around the edges and contains mistakes that a first-year film student would be smart enough to avoid when working on class projects. Bernie Goldmann and Melisa Wallick’s Meet Bill feels unpolished at times and downright awkward at parts but still has some strong performances and an intriguing story that make the film barely watchable.
Aaron Eckhart plays Bill, a born loser who is suffering from a mid-life crisis. His wife (Elizabeth Banks) is cheating on him under his nose. He hates his job at the bank run by his father-in-law and dreams of owning a “Sweet Sweet” donut franchise. His life takes a turn when he’s forced to be part of a mentor program and befriends “The Kid” (Logan Lerman), a smart-ass slacker who ambition in life is to have as much fun as possible. When Bill finally confronts his wife about the affair, a sex tape of her and her lover find its way onto the Internet. The Kid tries to whip Bill into shape. Lucy (Jessica Alba) tries to help Bill too by trying to make his wife jealous enough that she’ll throw herself back at Bill.
It’s tough to categorize this movie as it doesn’t throw enough humour into the mix to be classified outright as a comedy but doesn’t take itself seriously to be considered a drama. However, the movie shows strong signs of both as there are moments such as the exploding fireworks van scene that causes chuckles and the hospital bed scene in which Bill acknowledges to his wife that he knows how unhappy they are that make this film more than just watchable.
The problem with this film though is that between the interesting bits, they are surrounded by total awkwardness that should have made the cast members squirm on their first viewing of the final product. The scene in the tent with Bill, The Kid, Lucy, and Lucy’s friend where they are all getting high and partying doesn’t add much to the story and dampens the experience of the movie. There are many hiccups like this in the movie that make the film experience feel much less pleasant as it could have been.
One thing that helps buoy the film is the strong acting performances. Aaron Eckhart puts in a strong performance as a paranoid doormat who develops into someone brimming with confident. Eckhart brilliantly shows off the nuances of someone who is on the verge of a mental breakdown by doing the little things such as cradling the many chocolate bars that Bill eats (Bill’s vice) like a small child sneaking a cookie out of a cookie jar. Elizabeth Banks shows off her underappreciated acting skills as a woman who has had her life planned out by her father realizing that it really wasn’t what she wanted. Even though she doesn’t have as much dialogue in the movie as Eckhart or Lerman, she does an excellent job using her emotions to tell her characters story such as the scene in the coffee shop and towards the end of the movie in the hospital room. She spends part of the movie in various states of undress which doesn’t add anything to the movie other than eye candy and sort of diminishes her performance. Speaking of eye candy, Jessica Alba does well here by not getting in the way and not flubbing her lines. She deserves a gold star, which is unfair to her, but she adds nothing of value to the film other than to look beautiful. Perhaps had her character been better developed, we would have seen more of what Alba could do as an actress, but in this role, she doesn’t add much to this movie.
Indeed, Meet Bill is flawed and could have been better written but it does a passable job for a dramedy. I would have liked to have seen more of the back-story behind why The Kid is so desperate to befriend Bill, but the movie is already walking the fine line between an enjoyable indie flick and a failed film-school project. Some parts work, while others don’t, but it is a decent film, but forgettable film to watch while waiting for The Dark Knight to be released on DVD.
This post was originally published on this site on August 16, 2008. The original review is intact with some minor grammatical changes, additional context, and film stills were added for this revision.