For his directorial debut, “The Office” star John Krasinski adapted David Foster Wallace’s short-story collection “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men.” While slogging through the 80-minute exercise in pretentiousness, I was reminded of another Wallace title: “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.”
Krasinski is one of the titular hideous men interviewed by Sara (a bland Julianne Nicholson), a grad student nursing a broken heart who wants to find out why guys are the way they are when it comes to relationships, commitment, fidelity, etc. Most of them talk about sexual kinks and proclivities, and if males really are like those depicted in the film, I’d like to apologize on behalf of my entire species.
The film is loosely structured in a manner that recalls the freeform groove of Robert Altman, minus the master’s touch. “Hideous Men” is a movie that’s all talk, literally and figuratively, and while dialogue can be enthralling from a brilliant writer, listening to these guys gab and brag made me want to punch them in the face. Sorry, Josh Charles, Bobby Cannavale, Christopher Meloni, Ben Gibbard: You’re talented people, but reduced to self-absorbed loudmouths here, and presented in a showy, meta structure that calls far too much attention to itself.
Joey Slotnick, surprisingly, has a rare highlight, with a brief bit about Elizabeth Montgomery in “Bewitched,” but it doesn’t pay off as one would hope. Well, nothing does. Scenes presented as comedy are not funny; scenes presented as drama are overwrought.
The most alarming example is Krasinski’s decision to give himself the movie’s Big Climactic Scene, a monologue that drones on and on, and falls completely flat because he overestimates his own acting ability. It’s a good argument against letting actors direct themselves, or direct, period. I hate to knock him, because I like him so much on “The Office,” but he’s shown little spark outside of that series.
I do have to give him credit for tackling this pet project, trying to adapt a work that so many had called unadaptable. Turns out, they were right. “Rod Lott