A Little Help

18 Aug

Title: A Little Help
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Michael J. Weithorn
Writers: Michael J. Weithorn
Starring: 
Jenna Fischer, Chris O’Donnell, Rob Benedict, Arden Myrin, Daniel Yelsky
MPAA Rating: 
R, language, some sexual content and drug use
Runtime: 
105 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
5.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 
45%

 

I like Jenna Fischer a lot, I really do, and that’s the only reason why I like and will recommend A Little Help, because she really shines in this film. The thing is that, save from the performances, not much else in this film really works that well, so in the end it’s just a pretty decent flick even though it had a lead performance worthy of a pretty great one. And it’s really great to see Ms. Fischer tackle a role like the one she gets to play in this one, because most people know and love her from her role as Pam Beasley in TV’s The Office, but her film career has been marred with supporting roles in comedies like Blades of Glory (which was actually pretty good), The Brothers Solomon (which was horrible), Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (which was quite good), last year’s very good dramedy A Solitary Man (which I gave an A- to) and this year’s Hall Pass (which I awarded middling C to), so yeah, even though she’s been in some good flicks, she never has gotten the chance to really stretch herself and show us what she can do. A Little Help provides her with that chance, and she really makes the most of it.

The woman Ms. Fischer plays is Laura, a character appealing because of how imperfect she is, because we can relate to her in great ways. And I like the Laura character because we don’t really get to see mothers like her in film nowadays, we usually get moms who are sort of heroic and just tremendously good, but yet here we have a woman who really isn’t loving life all that much and isn’t afraid of taking a beer to deal with it. Not taking a beer in the sense of being an alcoholic mother who’s a total mess and irresponsible like crazy, but taking a beer in the sense of getting buzzed enough to not mind as much about all of her things, but also buzzed enough so that when things go wrong they go worse then they probably should have. It’s this character and Ms. Fischer’s portrayal of her that make A Little Help as good as it ultimately is, because even though this isn’t the perfect image of motherhood we know and have grown up with in films and television, we can still immediately connect with Laura, because deep down we know we’ve all had days like the ones she seems to constantly have.

I guess that inherent likability was something I should have been fully expecting because I’m a huge The Office fan and I know how adorable Ms. Fischer is, but it was still awesome to see her bring those qualities to a new role. Because a lesser actress could have easily made Laura a character we don’t necessarily root for, but Ms. Fischer finds a way to make her incredibly real, and in doing so she wins our hearts because we realize that Laura isn’t a bad person at all, she’s just a woman who’s apparently being played a huge prank on by life. I mean, her sister seems to have life figured out, her mother has been criticizing her since she was a kid, her son lies a lot, and her husband cheats on her. So we feel for Laura, we feel for her because she doesn’t seem to have a moment to breathe, always having somebody on her case.

Michael J. Weithorn, a long-time TV writer/producer of shows like The King of Queens and Family Ties, makes his feature-length writing/directing debut with this film, and his script is pretty fun, and it’s a pretty nonstop series of things that start going wrong in one way or another. The funnest one of them all is the one that’s featured in the trailer, the fact that Laura’s son being the compulsive liar that he is tells the kids at his new school that his father was a fireman who died on 9/11 (the movie is set in 2002), and because of that gets the attention of a lot of kids. And Laura goes along with her kid’s lies. This is just one the many things that happen to Laura in this film, and even though the film ultimately felt a bit too manipulative for my liking (and that’s the biggest reason as to why I’m not grading it higher), I really did like it, I liked the supporting cast and I loved Ms. Fischer who makes Laura such a mess it’s hard not to fall for it and follow her through it all.

It’s all maybe a bit too understated, but it really works in the end, because Ms. Fischer is fantastic at playing a woman trying exceptionally hard to do the right thing during a time in which absolutely everything seems to be going the wrong way, and because we believe her as that is that A Little Help gets to succeed. Not to mention that her scenes with Rob Benedict, who plays Laura’s brother-in-law, one of the few people on her side, are seriously terrific to watch, and the chemistry between the two makes for some really touching moments that I loved every moment of. If you’re a fan of Jenna Fischer from her work in The Office I really advice you to give this film a watch, it’s what you need to realize just how great she is.

Grade: B

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: