12 April 2008 | ed_metal_head
A Single Skip for Joy
Gifted character actor, Justin Theroux, makes his directorial debut with the indie romantic comedy "Dedication". The film tells the story of a neurotic children's book author Henry Roth (Billy Crudrup) who is forced to work with a female illustrator (Mandy Moore) instead of his usual collaborator (Tom Wilkinson).
The highpoint of the film is undoubtedly the acting. Billy Crudrup ("Almost Famous") is fantastic as Henry, displaying all the quirks one would expect from such a character. His performance seemed like a mix of John C. McGinley on "Scrubs" and Timothy Olyphant from "The Girl Next Door". Mandy Moore is also very good, and manages to create a real character instead of a generic love-interest. This is easily her best acting performance to date. Tom Wilkinson shines as Henry's collaborator and only friend, though it must be noted that his performance is somewhat similar to his Oscar nominated performance in "Michael Clayton". Dianne Wiest, Martin Freeman and Bob Balaban are also delightful in smaller supporting roles.
The screenplay, on the other hand, is unfortunately the film's low point. The character's dialogue itself is fine (actually, it is very good). The problem of the script is the rather generic plot which too closely follows the boy-meet-girl blueprint for romantic comedies. The film's ending is something that would be expected more of a Hollywood studio romantic comedy rather than a quirky indie.
First time director Justin Theroux shows real promise here. While it is true that some of the transitions and editing between scenes are a bit too arty and self-conscious, other things, such as camera placement and shot composition are handled with all the skills of an experienced professional.
Annoyances aside, this is an easy film to recommend. Moore and Crudrup are infinitely watchable and Thereoux is good enough to deserve more directorial jobs. In the end, the collective talent in front of and behind the camera elevates the middling plot into a very enjoyable film.