Sundance 2014: THEY CAME TOGETHER Review

     January 24, 2014

they-came-together-slice

When director David Wain does his own thing, it may not be for everyone, but he’s also at his best.  His more mainstream films, Role Models and Wanderlust, are entertaining, but his work on The State, Stella, and the classic Wet Hot American Summer is distinct, absurd, bold, and painfully funny.  His latest, They Came Together, is Wain embracing his unique comic voice as he turns to mock one of Hollywood’s easiest targets, the romantic comedy.  Despite the easily apparent flaws of that genre, Wain and co-writer Michael Showalter not only poke fun at the obvious tropes, but also let their delightfully twisted comedy burst through.  Further supported by Paul Rudd brilliantly and brutally skewering his familiar leading man persona, They Came Together doesn’t bring the rom-com to its knees, but it does deliver a well-deserved gut punch.

During a double-date with their friends (played by Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper), couple Joel (Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) relate the history of their love story, and specifically liken it to a cheesy romantic comedy where “New York is almost like another character”.  They then go through the standard motions of Molly being a quirky klutz who runs a candy store, and Joel working for a giant corporation (Candy Research Systems) that will crush her tiny business.  Neither one of them knows this of course; first they hate each other for frivolous reasons, then like each other for equally frivolous reasons (they both like “fiction books”), then fall in love, etc.

Wain knows we’re aware of the steps, and pointing them out is the soft jab. But then the movie will unleash something completely outlandish and hilarious.  I won’t specify any scenes because part of their value comes from the surprise, but they’re reminiscent of the scene from Wet Hot American Summer where the counselors go into town, become heroin addicts, and then come back like nothing happened.  They Came Together is at its funniest when it’s insane, and it can sometimes be a bit of an odd shift for it to come back down to a reasonable assessment of the rom-com’s flaws.  Thankfully, even at the movie’s tamest moments, it’s still a full-fledged parody where the cast slips comfortably into their caricatures, but they all have the skill to turn on a dime when Wain wants to shock the audience.

they-came-together-paul-rudd-amy-poehler

Everyone is great, but this is a showcase for Rudd, and it could also serve as a statement on his typecasting.  There’s nothing wrong with his work in Over Her Dead Body, Role Models, Dinner for Schmucks, How Do You Know, and I Love You, Man, but he has terrific range, and these are mostly tame characters.  In Wanderlust, his previous film with Wain, it’s a tug-of-war between the affable, mainstream-friendly Rudd (e.g. observing the insanity of the hippies) and the more aggressive, wonderfully weird Rudd (e.g. finding every conceivable way to say “Get on my dick,”).  They Came Together reconciles the two by giving him the leeway to lampoon his milquetoast characters and have downright bizarre moments.

Even in the film’s more subdued moments like having characters openly comment on the genre, it’s in service of creating a nice lull before we’re hit with a big, brash joke.  Rom-coms are inherently safe, and so a rom-com parody needs to be dangerous.  The Came Together rips away the security blanket of meet-cutes, work-life balance, easily resolved conflict, and grand gestures; does horrible, unspeakable things to that blanket; and then laughs manically as it burns the security blanket in front of a weeping couple.  It’s not a movie for everyone, and it damn well shouldn’t be.

Rating: B+

Click here for all of our Sundance 2014 coverage.  Click on the corresponding links for my reviews:

And click on the corresponding links for Adam’s reviews:

Around The Web

Latest News

Watch: Four JURASSIC WORLD Journals Featuring Chris Pratt Being Chris Pratt

Pratt certainly steals the spotlight, but all four videos have loads of behind-the-scenes footage well worth checking out.

Disney Pulls the Plug on TRON 3

Disney has decided not to move forward on the 'Tron' sequel from director Joseph Kosinski.

ANT-MAN: Evangeline Lilly Announces Marvel’s Micro-Tech Challenge

Girls ages 14 to 18 can win a trip to the 'Ant-Man' premiere by building a project using micro-technology.

LUMBERJANES Getting a Live-Action Movie at 20th Century Fox

Black List scribe Will Widger is set to adapt Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Brooke A. Allen's delightful comic.

HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT Review: Love is a Drug in the Safdie Brothers’ NYC-Set Drama

The Safdie Brothers' narrative follow-up to their great parental drama 'Daddy Longlegs' stars Arielle Holmes and Caleb Landry Jones as heroin addicts scrapping for dope, booze, and shelter in NYC.

New INSIDE OUT Clip Introduces Riley’s Personality Islands

Find out the difference between a standard memory and a core memory.

LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD: Catherine Hardwicke in Talks to Direct YA Adaptation

Hardwick will direct the hot YA property from a script by author Ava Dellaira.

SPECTACULAR NOW Director to Helm F. Scott Fitzgerald Tale WEST OF SUNSET

James Ponsoldt will turn his talents from David Foster Wallace to the final years of 'The Great Gatsby' author Fitzgerald's life in Hollywood.

EASY A Director Will Gluck to Helm Disney’s Untitled Lottery Project

The director will also oversee a re-write converting the originally male-led film to a female-centric project.

RESULTS Review: Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders Shine in Odd Rom-Com Riff

The director of 'Computer Chess' puts a weird spin on the romantic comedy genre to mixed results.

Page 1 of 3,97112345...102030...Last »