The Dilemma (2011)
Directed by: Ron Howard | 111 minutes | drama, comedy | Actors: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder, Channing Tatum, Jennifer Connelly, Queen Latifah, Talulah Riley, Chelcie Ross, Heidi Johanningmeier, Amy Morton, Rebecca Spence, Debbi Burns, January Stern, Grace Rex
A classic dilemma: what do you do when you discover that your best friend’s partner is cheating on you? To tell or to hide? Being honest and risking both a marriage and a friendship? Or being dishonest, and running the risk that everything will come out, including your knowledge of the truth? The American comedy ‘The Dilemma’ revolves around these questions for two hours, focusing on the friendship between colleagues and buddies Ronny and Nick.
Despite the dilemma itself being centuries old, the film falls into a subgenre that is very popular in the 21st century: the Bromance. Think “I Love You Man,” think “Wedding Crashers.” With the choice for a Bromance, veteran Ron Howard (‘Cocoon’, ‘A Beautiful Mind’, ‘Frost/Nixon’) shows that he is still completely up to date. Unfortunately, he has overlooked an important feature of the genre. In modern Bromance films, the main theme is not male friendship, but growing up. Bromances are about grown men who act like teenagers until life calls them to order. In that adolescent universe it doesn’t amount to much if the man once visits a prostitute, or if the woman treats her tennis teacher to a lap dance.
The main characters in ‘The Dilemma’ are mature thirty-somethings, with mature jobs and mature relationships. In that universe, cheating means the end of a marriage. With this at stake, the comedy is hopelessly in the way of the dramatic. Because the drama is too dark and too realistic, the humor becomes wry and eventually kills. Slapstick-like violence, no problem at all in a real comedy, is bleak and inappropriate in this dramatic setting.
It doesn’t immediately make ‘The Dilemma’ a failure. The acting is fine (Vaughn, James) and as long as the drama isn’t on edge, the humor works. Chicago once again turns out to be an atmospheric film city and the score is easy to enjoy. Although you also recognize the ambiguity of this film in the choice of music: just listen to ‘She’s Long Gone’ (The Black Keys) and ‘Chelsea Dagger’ (The Fratellis). Good songs, crappy combination.