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‘Entanglement’ (review)

Produced by Jason James, Amber Ripley
Written by Jason Filiatrault
Directed by Jason James
Starring Thomas Middleditch, Jess Weixler,
Diana Bang, Nicole LaPlaca,
Randal Edwards, Marilyn Norry

 

Existential forays into the nature of humanity and the connections between all humans can be dangerous.

If the writer and director aren’t careful they can wind up masturbating all over the audience as they try and demonstrate that they are so very smart and the audience is so very dumb.

A perfect example of this is I Heart Huckabees, a movie so full of it’s own virtue it caused one of the greatest on set melt downs of all time by the skilled and professional Lily Tomlin.

Entanglement isn’t like that at all.

Entanglement asks a lot of interesting questions, but respects the audience enough to let us find our own answers as we take on a journey of heartbreak and healing with Ben (Thomas Middleditch). Ben’s wife left him and the film opens on a failed suicide attempt as he tries to end the enormous pain he is in. His survival and the ensuing revelations about his family take him on a journey. Ben explores who he is, where he has been, and most importantly where he is going as he tries to piece together the key moments of his life that created the branches on his timeline. The story touches on quantum mechanics and branching universe theory, but doesn’t beat you over the head with the existential science.

Jason Filiatrault’s script is smart without being arrogant.

As the true nature of Ben’s universe reveals itself slowly throughout the film the story is amplified by some really interesting visuals. Jason James proves himself an able story teller as the pacing of the film is excellent. The story unfolds evenly and dramatically providing the viewer enough time to experience the character’s emotions without being immediately forced into the next chapter or act.

The movie isn’t long, but allows time for reflection as you learn more about the characters. This is not a big budget film, but at no point did I feel like the filmmakers skimped. The production values are high, the sets are well lit, and the exteriors aren’t washed out at all. It is exactly the kind of attention to craft you hope for in an indie, but sometimes don’t get.

The one thing about the film I didn’t like was Ben’s parents. They seemed crammed into the plot and weren’t really necessary save one powerful scene with Ben and his mom as she talks about how she felt about his suicide attempt. It almost seems like they were supposed to be the comic relief, but they aren’t really funny and they do distract from the broader plot, albeit in a very minor way.

If all you know of Thomas Middleditch is Silicon Valley and Verizon commercials you are in for a treat.

At first Ben seems like exactly the same character MIddleditch plays in Silicon Valley. Ben is a quiet, unassuming, introspective fish out of water at first, but late in the film he shows an amazing range. He confronts himself in a mirror and that scene is a clear indicator that Middleditch is a fine actor who can play a variety of types. He is in basically every scene in the film and it isn’t overkill. The story demands it.

Jess Weixler plays the enigmatic Hanna. Hanna is a beautiful free spirit who Ben needs right at the moment she arrives in the story and Weixler does an excellent job. She is very easy and natural on the screen, delivering a powerful performance aided by Filiatrault’s excellent script. There is real chemistry between Weixler and Middleditch on the screen and it makes an already enjoyable film even better.

The last performance of note is delivered by Diana Bang, who plays Ben’s best friend, Tabby. Tabby saves Ben’s life in the beginning of the story and she takes the Chinese proverb, “You are responsible for the life you save,” very seriously. Tabby is the steadying influence on Ben’s journey and Diana Bang plays the adorable (and literal) girl next door role magnificently. She shows outstanding emotional range while trying desperately to support her friend through his difficult time. I really enjoyed watching her.

There is a lot to like here. The story and performances, combined with good writing and excellent pacing give you about 90 minutes of pleasant diversion as you take a journey of heartbreak, loss and healing with Ben, his friends and family. You’ll be glad you did.

4 out of 5 stars

 

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