Release Date: April 26, 2013 (Limited)
Director: Dante Ariola
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 4/10
“Arthur Newman” does not exist. As a person, that is. The name, however, is used for the new identity of Wallace Avery (Colin Firth), an unemployed, unsatisfied, and underwhelming forty-something divorcee. Without a second thought to the emotional ramifications it might have on his family and girlfriend, Wallace fakes his own death and uses his new clean slate choose the most thrilling identity possible – golf-pro Arthur Newman. He ventures across the country and meets a beautiful, like-minded woman named Mike (Emily Blunt) who is also trying to leave her past behind. Together, they both learn that you can’t escape who you are, when you’re as a super-exciting, polo-shirt-wearing, golf-carting, country clubber named Arthur.
If you picked up on the sarcasm in the latter sentence, then you probably would’ve amazed the creators of this film. The writers of “Arthur Newman” leave nothing up to the audience to figure out on their own, making sure to hit us over the head with ever story element. In case we didn’t pick up on the fact that Wallace isn’t the guy he wants to be, we’re hit with a long montage of Wallace and Mike dressing up as other people and having sex. In case we didn’t realize that he is lonely, we’ve given an insert shot of him reading a random poem about loneliness. And on the off chance we weren’t able to figure out how he grew after more than an hour and a half, he recites his own character development in the final scene out loud. Can’t risk leaving anything up to the audience’s imagination. That would be too interesting.
Which brings me to the second point. The character of Arthur Newman is about as interesting as he sounds. While it is possible to write movies about boring characters with eclectic passions, this character, given the chance to be anything, chose a life of pleated shorts and umbrella visors. His misunderstood romantic fling Mike is more interesting than him, and her favorite things include brooding, wearing black, and spying on old people. Mike and Arthur’s romance – the one thing that could’ve been interesting – feels too uncomfortable. Not only are we put-off by the fact that our hero never thinks twice about abandoning his family and cheating on his girlfriend, but it’s also not easy to watch Arthur’s sex montage with the girl he was treating like a daughter for the first quarter of the film.
The film did, however, how some quality moments. Minor supporting characters, such as Wallace’s girlfriend, had surprising emotional richness, and a twist added a much-needed element of intrigue to the ending. The film itself was beautifully shot, drawing from a palette of moody blues and pale yellows, and was accentuated by an equally somber piano soundtrack. But unfortunately, this film wasn’t named after any of its good qualities. It was named after it’s worst.