17 February 2010 | EUyeshima
An Off-Kilter Screwball Farce of a Needy Mother and Her Put-Upon Son
I have an unexplainable fondness for this slight, oddball 2008 comedy. It's not the catastrophic train wreck others would have you believe it is. Instead, director/screenwriter Vince DiMeglio has concocted a screwball farce with off-kilter characters that alternate between endearing and irritating, often in the same moment. The film is by no means a significant milestone in cinema, but it does generate some unexpected laughs mostly due to Diane Keaton's freewheeling performance. The Oscar-winning actress may appear to be slumming here, but her dexterity is put to the test as one incredibly needy and critical mother.
Usually a second banana in films, Dax Shepard ("Baby Mama") plays Noah, a physical therapist who gets fired and wants to change his luck by starting his own practice. Married to Clare, a schoolteacher who wants to have a baby badly, he finds his wife's cousin Myron, a dweeby screenwriter wannabe, parked on the couch. Later, Noah's mom Marilyn drops by unexpectedly after a big fight with his father. She moves in with her five dogs, all named Sammy Higgins, and together they find jobs at the carpet store where used to work. Her flighty incompetence gets them both fired, and things get even worse from there.
Shepard relies heavily on a deadpan delivery to carry his performance. Liv Tyler ("The Lord of the Rings") is sweet as Clare, and Mike White ("The Good Girl") manages to make his creepiness oddly likable. But it's Keaton who amps up her innate zaniness to draw a beleaguered level of sympathy to a character that could have been buried in sitcom-level clichés. For evidence, watch her work the scene in the Denny's-style restaurant or trade barbs with Shepard in the funeral scene. Production values are on the modest side. The 2009 DVD features an entertaining commentary track from DiMeglio (who reveals that the story is somewhat autobiographical) and a brief making-of featurette.