I bought this film as part of my February buying spree, which means it was part of my March binge. Which is a couple of movies a week, so I am not sure that that counts as a binge in 2023.
I just read the book–in this case, “just” means almost two years ago. So I will steal the book’s plot summary as the film is pretty true to the book:
So. The story of the book is that the protagonist, a 35-year-old record store owner named Rob Fleming gets dumped by his long-time live-in girlfriend for the guy who formerly lived upstairs from them (and the two move in together elsewhere), which triggers Rob’s reflection on his relationships and his life which seems to have stalled. Prone to making a list, Rob lists his top five heartbreaks of all time and gets in touch with those women and moons over Laura, whom he met while he was DJing at a defunct club. She has gone onto become an attorney at a big law firm in London, which creates a gulf between them in Rob’s mind, and he’s starting to get a little bitter.
That’s the size of it, except the location is changed to Chicago.
In the film, Rob (John Cusack) breaks the fourth wall a bunch to talk directly to the audience, which actually works to capture some of the first person narration of the book. The film also wraps up and closes pretty quickly after the funeral, when Rob and his most recent girlfriend reconcile–the end part of the book where Rob dotes a little on the reporter for the local alt paper goes on a bit much, and his future with Laura, the girlfriend with whom he reconciles, is left more in doubt. In the film, as I said, this is minimized, and it looks like Rob has actually grown up and changed, whereas the book left that in doubt.
The film resonated with me, perhaps more than it did when I first watched it. Rob’s kind of at a loose end, getting older and not really accomplishing much these days aside from sticking in his rut and then bolting from relationships. It’s been a while since I have had a project that I spent time on–I’ve started to think that the things I start or try are pretty much doomed to failure as I tend to get to a certain point with them, encounter some difficulty, and then set them aside and the tide of life washes over them, and suddenly six months or six years have passed.
I’m fortunate, though, that I’m still married and I don’t have to deal with that particular angst of dating and finding someone. I just need to remember I have her more.
So a better film than a book, strangely. Perhaps a bit anachronistic to the younger people, although who knows? It certainly did not seem anachronistic to me because I lived it contemporaneously.It also has nice casting, including Jack Black as one of Rob’s employees and Tim Robbins as the pony-tailed martial artist and Zen master neighbor that Laura shacks up with.
And one of the parts of the film is Rob reaching out to women who broke his heart–although he relearns that he was often the dumper and not the dumped. The film casts many lovely actresses as Rob’s former girlfriends.
Joelle Carter played Penny Hardwick, a woman who loved Rob in school, but when he broke up with her, she hooked up with another student.
Catherine Zeta-Jones played Charlie Nicholson, a college romance who seemed above his station, but when he views her from the perspective of an adult, he finds her a bit shallow.
Lili Taylor plays Sarah Kendrew, a rebound romance after Charlie whom Rob discovers, when he finds her again in her mid-thirties, that she’s still a needy mess.
And Iben Hjejle plays Laura, the woman that Rob does love and does decide he wants to be with.
She is mostly known for her work in Europe and never did make a big splash here in the United States, unfortunately.