A Case of the Blahs, by Sarah Brinks
A Case of You is one of those movies that has a lot going for it; great cast, capable filmmaking, and fun characters but the story that all this is trying to tell is ultimately uninteresting and dated. It is a risky move in a world where social media is changing so quickly to base your film on something like Facebook. It immediately evokes memories of You’ve Got Mail and The Net. Plus there is nothing new or interesting about using someone’s profile to find out about them.
In A Case of You Justin Long plays Sam, a writer who is struggling to write an original novel. Sam has been writing the novelizations of hit movies for the past few years and has run out of creativity. He has a crush on a cute barista named Birdie played by Evan Rachel Wood. Birdie is the ultimate “manic, pixie, dream girl”. She draws caricatures in the park, she ballroom dances with the elderly on Thursdays, she reads Walt Whitman, she sings, etc. Sam the manic, drained writer doesn’t know how to get her attention much less keep it. Finally he looks her up on the Internet and using her profile he transforms himself into the man he thinks she wants. Through his transformation he tries to suppress who he really is. Shakespeare wrote, “To thine own self be true”. Sam could have really benefitted from listening to the bard. He falls for Birdie but is frustrated by her affection for him because he thinks she likes a false version of himself.
The cast is A Case of You’s is its best feature. Long saves Sam as a character by having that “Tom Hanks likeability” quality, in other hands Sam would be pretty unbearable. Wood manages to stay on the edge of being too perfect and quirky without going over. From the moment Sam starts talking to her you understand why he is into her. She is charming, sincere, and very likeable. The rest of the cast is also a delight. There is just the right amount of Vince Vaughn as Sam’s agent for him to not to be irritating. Peter Dinklage plays a barista at the coffee shop where Sam meets Birdie. He doesn’t have a lot to do but the few scenes he is in Dinklage he manages to bring life and humor to a throw away character. Keir O’Donnell plays Sam’s roommate and is fun but also a grounding energy in the film. Keep your eyes peeled for an almost unrecognizable Brendan Fraser and enjoy Sam Rockwell’s performance as the stoner guitar teacher. Listening to Sam Rockwell play and sing the Spin Doctors ‘Two Princes’ is worth the eighty-seven minute runtime.
Where A Case of You disappoints the most is the details and lazy story telling. You have a world full of fun and interesting characters that are stuck speaking terrible, heavy-handed dialogue that at every moment tells the audience exactly what it happening and how everyone is feeling. What is even more offensive is that the dialogue often goes out of its way to tell you how you as an audience member should feel. What I mean by laziness can best be explained by looking at the titles of the fake movies that Sam has to write novelizations of, the most famous is “Teen Vampire” and his agent is pitching him “Sherpa”. Fake Movie titles like “Teen Vampire” really call attention to themselves and only server to pull the audience out of the film. Moments like that feel like they were leftovers from a first draft. There are also many, many heavy-handed moments when the people in Sam’s life tell him that he has to be himself and compromise on combining his interests with Birdies for a healthy relationship. Every time this happens it is like a palm-to-the-forehead “duh” moment and feels insulting to the audience. The message is clear we did not need it spelled out for us.
A Case of You wasn’t really great or really bad but fell in that middle ground of being entertaining but ultimately unfulfilling. Two films came to mind while watching it; 500 Days of Summer and Ruby Sparks. Both those films are ultimately more successful in telling their stories and making you feel connected to the characters, both also rely heavily on the allure of the ‘manic, pixie, dream girl’. In A Case of You I fell for the Birdie character just like Sam. Wood gives Birdie charisma, character, and sweetness that make the time we spend with her delightful. Unfortunately we spend the majority of our time with clueless Sam and his inability to like himself enough to believe Birdie could actually for him too.
A Case of You is fine as a romantic comedy, it sadly squanders its potential as a commentary on the way we connect socially and how the Internet is not a mirror of our selves but a rose-colored version of who we want to be. There are some genuinely funny moments and the cast is doing their best with a lame script. It is an easy and fast watch just keep your expectations low.