Paper Man

“There are people out there with real problems,” groans Lisa Kudrow in this mid-life crisis dramedy. And we agree—husband Jeff Daniels’ issues are self-indulgent. But to him, his writer’s block and insubstantial life are epic, and writer-director-marrieds Kieran and Michele Mulroney’s film sides with him more often than not. Adrift in a New England beach house, Daniels doesn’t have much of our sympathy, but at least he’s got local girl Emma Stone who has enough of her own problems to make this friendless middle-aged man her friend. Their May-December relationship could be creepy on paper—and to the rest of the characters, it is. But the Mulroneys tease out the wrongness of their devotion as if daring us to admit that we’re the perverts for thinking that it couldn’t possibly be platonic. The twist is their twosome is a foursome as they come saddled with secret invisible friends: Stone’s stalkerish Kieran Culkin and Daniels’ condescending Captain Excellent (Ryan Reynolds) who muscles into the frame like a cartoon playing in the next theater. The five leads and three plots are fine, but never coalesce into one good film. Maybe the Mulroneys secretly do agree that Daniels’ problems can’t make a movie and so they’ve half-haphazardly padded it with quirk. But even though Reynolds’ super hero is quirk incarnate, don’t take it out on him—in his tight spandex, he proves that his muscles and comic timing are 100 percent real.

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