With its premise, The Dilemma has a solid hook in its audience – how do you tell your best friend that their wife is being unfaithful? Do you tell them at all? For all of the relationship movies out there, here’s one situation that feels underexplored but worth discussing. Unfortunately, The Dilemma is rarely as interested in taking a look at its own dilemma, and more interested in unnatural hijinks.
The movie stars Vince Vaughn as Ronny Valentine (possibly the most Vince-Vaughny sounding name for a character). He’s 40-years-old and finally ready to pop the question on Beth (Jennifer Connelly) when the aforementioned dilemma takes place.
Here, when Ronny is initially faced with the dilemma of what to do, the movie works pretty well. He runs around the prominently featured setting city of Chicago, trying to figure out how to break the news to his friend (Kevin James), or maybe to convince the cheater (Winona Ryder) to come clean instead, or just calling his sister for advice.
But eventually the film turns a corner into Focker territory – the innocent protagonist makes stupid mistakes and, rather than come clean, lies about everything, forcing his loved ones to suspect he’s up to something. All this while silly shenanigans run around the script, like being attacked by a brawny, sensitive drug user (Channing Tatum). These kinds of movies inspire a dialogue with their audience – “You stupid fuck! Just tell these people that love you unconditionally what’s going on! It will solve all your troubles!”
It’s just hard to take seriously – why should I care about a guy who’s acting so senselessly? Advancing a plot is not worth poor character development.
The film’s director, Ron Howard, has never been a very showy filmmaker. But The Dilemma is even less cinematic than most of his work – with the exception of a few throwaway dramatizations of Vaughn’s bullshitery (which are pretty entertaining), we just get bland scenes of people talking. All we have to look at in this movie are Connelly and Ryder which, actually, nevermind.
A lack of visual style makes the cast extra-important, and they actors aren’t bad. Vaughn is likable as the fast-talking nice guy that he usually plays in movies, even if it starts to ware thin. Kevin James has proven a reliable lovable schlub, and Tatum is good for the laughs he’s there to give. Ryder doesn’t do anything with her role of the conflicted unfaithful, but a lot of the blame lies on an underwritten character.
All together, it’s not much of a film; but the central conflict and good-enough cast are enough to get you through this film.