Dir:John Krasinski. US. 2008. 80 mins.
Best known as lovable-guy Jim from the American version of The Office, John Krasinski opts to focus on distinctly unlovable guys for his directorial debut Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, an uneven, intriguing adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s book of short stories. Turning a series of first-person monologues into an episodic film centred on a woman who’s been dumped and wants to understand men, Brief Interviews has a lot of life, but the movie’s bits-and-pieces structure ultimately doesn’t add up to as much as hoped.
Brief Interviews does, however, have several marketable factors in its favour, including Krasinski’s raised profile following the critical and commercial success of The Office. There is also a litany of recognisable television actors and comedians with small roles in this film. Finally, and most tragically, the recent suicide of revered author David Foster Wallace will undoubtedly generate interest in this very first adaptation of his work.
Still wounded after her boyfriend Ryan (Krasinski) broke up with her, student Sara (Julianne Nicholson) decides interview a series of men about their sexual proclivities. In between these interview segments, scenes of Sara’s personal life are shown, offering hints into her relationship with Ryan.
Wallace’s short-story collection, praised as an indictment of men’s rampant sexual urges, consisted of a series of ‘interviews’ with different characters telling their stories. To bring this book to the screen, Krasinski has invented the character of Sara to observe these confessions, and he has additionally moved some of the book’s interviews to dinner parties and other locations where they form part of casual conversation. But while Krasinski has in some ways tried to make the material more accessible, his film remains an interesting collection of random story fragments.
As a result, Brief Interviews becomes a glass half-full/half-empty experience. On the downside, some of the vignettes simply don’t work, including a recurring element where Will Arnett’s caddish character tries to sweet-talk his unseen girlfriend through her locked apartment door. On the other hand, a sequence in which Frankie Faison’s middle-aged man recalls the shame he felt at his father’s emasculating job as a bathroom attendant is both cinematically engaging and deeply moving. As an actor turned director, Krasinski seems unwilling to rein in some of his cast’s indulgences, and so the monologues often feel ‘performed’ rather than organic.
Still, Krasinski’s unpredictable structure, which bounces around chronologically and sometimes includes parallel versions of scenes, does have a certain playful quality which helps smooth over some of the rough patches. Not unlike Waking Life or Coffee And Cigarettes, this adaptation of Brief Interviews is in love with provocative dialogue and a more theatrical approach to acting. Krasinski’s filmmaking may be a little shaky in this debut, but his enthusiastic willingness to take risks is without question.
Creative Artists Agency
(1) 424 288 2000
John Krasinski, based on the book by David Foster Wallace
Lou Taylor Pucci