Here’s the basic plot of Are You Here, the first movie from Matthew Weiner, creator of Mad Men: A womanizing local weatherman (Owen Wilson) finds out that the father of his screw-up best friend (Zach Galifianakis) has just died and accompanies said friend to the funeral. There, Wilson discovers that: a) the widow of Galifianakis’ father is young and beautiful; and b) Galifianakis has inherited a house, a farm and a general store worth millions of dollars—which greatly upsets Galifianakis’ bitchy, barren sister (Amy Poehler). From there, Wilson tries to help his friend and win over his friend’s stepmom.
Sound OK to you? Or sound kinda unsexy and just… random? I suppose a good movie could be made from this premise, but Are You Here isn’t it. Worse, if you’re like me, you kept watching this film, knowing it was from the same brilliant mind who dreamed up Don Draper and Peggy Olson and company, and thinking, “Why is he telling us this story?” By the end, you still probably won’t have a good answer. It’s a two-hour head scratcher. (It actually reminds me a lot of another Owen Wilson movie with a strange, vaguely questioning title from a super talented writer, James L. Brooks’ How Do You Know.)
“As passion projects from ex-Sopranos writers go, this one makes David Chase’s passion project look like Orson Welles’ passion project.”
Now, it’s not completely terrible. There are a few laughs, like when Galifianakis, sitting in a psychiatrist’s waiting room with an Amish boy (yep), stops flipping through a Highlights magazine and says, “You ever read this shit? Every issue is exactly the same!” (I actually wonder whether Galifianakis ad-libbed this part.) There are also some beautifully written lines of dialogue, like when Owen Wilson tells the pretty young widow (who we all know he’s going to end up with), “You had sex with a 900-year-old man. That broad chest. Those toenails.”
But it all adds up to a very weird movie. It’s long and slow. It lacks music. It lacks focus. It lacks passion. (Which is strange because you would consider this Matthew Weiner’s passion project. But as passion projects from ex-Sopranos writers go, this makes David Chase’s passion project look like Orson Welles’ passion project.)
But. But. There is one very good reason to watch this movie. It comes about 43 minutes in. It involves actress Alana De La Garza, whom you might recognize from her 80-plus episodes as Connie Rubirosa on Law & Order. Here, she plays a news anchor (“Victoria Riolobos”) who has just hooked up with Wilson at his place. After complaining that Wilson doesn’t have any whitening trays in his bathroom (which is code for her character being too shallow for Wilson), she disrobes and shows off the most beautiful body I’ve seen in recent memory. (And I subscribe to Playboy.) Seriously, props to her and her trainer.
This isn’t the only nudity in the film, either. It makes you wonder what Weiner might have done had HBO picked up Mad Men back in the mid-aughts, instead of famously rejecting it. The series might not have been any better (how could it be?), but we probably would’ve seen a lot more fantastic breasts.
Are You Here hits theaters and VOD on August 22.