Directed by Justin Theroux
Written by David Bromberg
Billy Crudup as Henry Roth
Mandy Moore as Lucy
Tom Wilkinson as Rudy Holt
Dianne Wiest as Carol
Christine Taylor as Allison
Martin Freeman as Jeremy
Peter Bogdanovich as Roger Spade
Bobby Cannavale as Don Meyers
Bob Balaban as Arthur Planck
111 Minutes(Rated R for language and some sexual content.)
"Dedication" stars Billy Crudup as Henry Roth, a children's book writer who collaborates only with Rudy Holt, an elderly illustrator who is also Henry's only friend. Henry is a mess. He had a bad childhood, and his mother is off somewhere and his father is dead. He also has many obsessive compulsive like behaviors-being superstitious of the number seven, often laying down on the floor with heavy objects on him, much to the chagrin of his live-in girlfriend, Allison, who walks out on him at film's open. In fact the only person that seemed to understand him is Rudy, but he sadly dies of a brain tumor. But Henry is still under contract with his publishers, and he needs to find a new person to illustrate the new adventures of "Marty the Beaver." And the person that gets the job is Lucy, who finds it hard to work with Henry considering he is such a rude and cruel person-often quoting "Life is. . ." and then continuing with a nasty comment. But the two of them find a way to work together, and maybe even more, as Lucy may be the only person to cure Henry. Meanwhile, Lucy is visited by her former thesis advisor/boyfriend, who wants to woo her back once again, and Henry is visited by images of Rudy who give him advice or just tell him off.
Now most of the problems from "Dedication" come from the script, which is as uninspired and contrived as anything in Hollywood. I would expect something more from something so low budget. For one thing, the cast of supporting characters exist only as a way of giving the film some more quirks. There is Lucy's mother, who wants to kick her out of her apartment because she also happens to be the landlord. The part is played by Dianne Wiest, and the character is so pointless that after two scenes they never even bother returning to her. And the apartment conflict quickly disappears. There is also the rigid and strict editor, played well by Bob Balaban, but its a part that he could do in his sleep. And Martin Freeman's Jeremy-Lucy's ex-boyfriend that wants her back-is barely in the film and provides no conflict at all. Getting rid of him is so easy. And there's an odd part with Peter Bogdanovich, who has no lines and gives off a single look to Billy Crudup's character-and yet he gets third billing. Clearly there was more to the film that got cut, as I can't image all these actors-Christine Taylor and Bobby Canavale as well-being in the project for such useless roles.
In addition to using these extra characters to make the film more quirky and "cute," there is also the thing with Henry's tics and twitches. Lets take a film that deals with OCD well, like "Matchstick Men." In that film, there was a rhyme and rhythm to all the tics. Here, they try to pile them up constantly. A scene where Henry recites his problems seems to go on forever, and at times it seemed like Crudup was getting bored reciting all the lines. And as the film progresses, and him and Lucy fall deeper and deeper in love, you see the tics slowly disappear-and its done in subtly ways. Henry looks on the counter and finds that he is sleeping without books on his chest. But Henry never even seemed that bad so that when he getting better you don't even care. And that scene about halfway through-when you think that he'll be alright, but then tragedy strikes and he succumbs back to his old self-comes obviously and with such a clear forcing motion that I was surprised I wasn't punched in the face with how much this script treated me like a child.
Lets talk about the main love story, by the way. Its so typical and standard, yes-but if it was played well I could over look that. Crudup and Mandy Moore have zero on-screen chemistry, and the movie lacks any heart. I could care less if they ended up together, because I didn't see any reason why each one would find anything in the other. They go from merely working together to kissing so randomly, that even though I knew it was coming it took me by surprise by how quick. They did not click at all. Crudup has done some good work in the past, and Henry Roth could have been a good and complex character if he were written well. I could only think of one actor that actually made the film worthwhile: Tom Wilkinson, who exited far too soon. And since he does pop up throughout the film after his death-in another contrived "ghost" imagery-he is able to give the film just a little bit of heart. In his brief role, Wilkinson, on his own, saved the movie from being badly acted on all parts. And I liked that little touch of Crudup's initials being HR (Henry Roth) and Wilkinson's being RH (Rudy Holt)-just showcasing how they may be close, but they are total opposites.
That being said, there is a second thing that worked in "Dedication" and that was the work behind the camera from director Justin Theroux. I may not love him as a actor-even though he has done some amusing work-but in his directorial debut Theroux manages to put some style and life through imagery and music, even though he is working with such a bland script. He gives the film a bleak blue look, and does some cool transitions whenever Henry is visited by Rudy, or whenever he goes back into his "OCD" mode. If Theroux had a better script-or if he wrote his own-he is capable of some good work, and I await his next effort. But in the end, and it kills me to say it, "Dedication" is not a good movie. It's obvious, has not heart, is poorly acted, and is one of the worst contrived scripts of the year.