How To Be

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 5:07 PM By Simon

"After a number of personal setbacks, including a struggling musical career and a recently ended relationship with a girlfriend, Art (Robert Pattinson) moves back home with his cold and neglectful parents (played by Rebecca Pidgeon and Michael Irving). Art decides to use inheritance money to pay for Canadian therapist, Dr. Levi Ellington (Powell Jones) to come to his home in England and help Art get his life back to normal, about which his parents are less than thrilled. Despite his unsupportive parents, Art attempts with his new life coach and two slightly unbalanced friends Nikki (Mike Pearce) and Ronnie (Johnny White) to find a balance in his life, true happiness, and a good relationship with his parents".

I know. Dude from Twilight does not a good movie make. But, good news, this was made before Twilight. Because, yeah, people from that dreaded series did have decent careers before, and (I think) could have good ones after.

But, I'd like to point this out. Despite it's pre-Twilight copyright, it's like someone made this movie just to stick it to Edward Cullen. Because, aside from a few variables, this character, Art, is received exactly as how Edward Cullen would in the real world. He's not a vampire, he's a shy, mumbling, twitchy, awkward dude who's sulkiness can easily be mistaken for deep. In fact, his girlfriend, in the midst of breaking up with him in the beginning, puts it spot-on:

"When we first met, you seemed so elusive, and brooding, and intense. An enigmatic poet. What I took to be deep and mysterious has just turned out to be really sad and unhappy."

When I first heard of this movie, I was thinking it'd be another one of those pretty-boy-dolled-up-to-be-'geeky' type of things. But Pattinson sells it. He's the type of guy that could conceivably be both a TigerBeat heartthrob and an awkward loser. His face is handsome in a certain angle, odd in another. And, again, to my suprise, he's good in it. He unabashingly and totally plays Art's neurosis, tics, self-absorbtion, all the things that make him look uncomfortable in his own skin, the self-pity and manchildness and thickheadedness. He's, dare I say, amazing, in a way. I actually find him more convincing here, in this kind of role, than the contrived, 'dark' Twilight thing.

The supporting actors, too, are very good. For comic relief are his two slightly demented best friends, who always tell him he's got a problem, when they are just as bad as he. Mike Pearce as Nikki, the former nerd from his school who's now a manic "ladies' man", and Johnny White as Ronnie, a dominating, loudmouthed, dreaming bit of an asshole who's apartment is paid for by his dad. Rebecca Pidgeon, his belittling, cold mother who's catchphrase appears to be "Honestly, sometimes I wonder about you", and Michael Irving, his distant, uninterested father, are completely and unnecassarily unsupportive of Art, and yet, you can't blame them. He's, to put it mildly, a case. You go from being sick of the guy to feeling sorry for him, he's such a sadsack. Everybody around him, especially Pigeon, perfectly display such wariness of the guy.

Powell Jones, the Canadian self-help guru is entirely creepy.

My problem, though, is that the movie doesn't appear to be going anywhere. We have one absurd situation after another, fueled at once by Dr. Ellington's questionable advice and form quotes, partially by Art's pathetic attempts at reconciliation with his girlfriend, parents, friends, all ending up alienating them further, and partially by his desperate stabs at finding meaning in his life. But none of them lead anywhere. Like it's main character, it wanders aimlessly, mumbles it's point at inaudible levels, doesn't know what to do with itself, caught midway through, realizes it's actually a movie now, and gets stagefright. How else to put it? It's funny, sometimes laugh-out-loud so, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes confounding. It dances on the line between valid 'quarter-life crisis' comedy and self-congratulatingly quirky Brit indie.

Some of the characters...maybe all of them...are two-dimensional, barely an excuse given about their behaviour which serves only to be ridiculous.

Overall? Funny, might be grating to some, but if you want to feel better about your life, I'd watch it.