20 December 2013 | ts_worldwide
a rare treat from a modern drama
Sam, the protagonist of Finding Neighbors, is a man in crisis, of a sort, struggling to deal with writer's block and the frustration of getting older. Stop there and I must, frustratingly, admit that I can relate all too well on both points. Dig a bit deeper into this film, however, and discover something magical. While the concept of an aging writer searching for
something – his youth, his muse, his soul – is nothing new, the story of Sam certainly is.
Writer/director Ron Judkins utilizes the tagline 'not your Daddy's mid- life crisis movie' to draw attention to Finding Neighbors, and I feel hard-pressed to think of of a more appropriate or accurate way to boil this film down to a simple phrase. Where other 'mid-life crisis movies' take their leading men (or women) down often-implausible paths of depression or terror or acting out, concluding either with an even more impossible super-happy-fun-time resolution or a depressing-cum- frightening descent into (choose one) madness/violence/catatonia, Finding Neighbors takes Sam down a less traveled path. I refuse to offer spoilers, and will not divulge the details of Sam's journey, but I will clearly state that never before have I experienced a 'mid-life crisis movie' that is as engaging, entertaining, or ultimately satisfying as this one.
Michael O'Keefe wears the character of Sam so well that I can't help but state that this feels like the role he was born to play – and he's been in some fantastic stuff, including Caddyshack (!). Sam may experience a few pitiful moments, but he never falls into the trap of seeming pathetic, and that alone is a key differentiator between this film and most others of its kind. Catherine Dent (The Shield) shines as Sam's wife, Mary, deftly avoiding the traps that plague most 'wife' characters in most 'mid-life crisis movies' and never forcing me, as the viewer, to choose sides before any conflict even begins.
What locks me in to a 'perfect score' review of Finding Neighbors is the amazing supporting cast of neighbors that give the film its title. Blake Bashoff (Lost) is infinitely likable as Jeff – imagine a perfectly charming blend of Jon Cryer and Matthew Broderick – while Julie Mond (General Hospital) steals every scene she's in by reinventing the sexy- girl-next-door archetype for the 21st century.
In short, Finding Neighbors is both sentimentally mature and as grippingly can't-turn-away-for-even-a-second as a classic action movie – both rare treats from a modern drama.