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A man discovers that his best friend's wife is having an affair.
For more about The Dilemma and the The Dilemma Blu-ray release, see the The Dilemma Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on April 29, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Allan Loeb
Starring: Kevin James, Vince Vaughn, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly, Channing Tatum, Queen Latifah
» See full cast & crew
The Dilemma Blu-ray Review
The only real dilemma you'll have is trying to decide what else to watch.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, April 29, 2011
Ron Howard often gets pegged as a sort of "Steven Spielberg-lite" director, but is that really a fair comparison? Probably, when considering films like Cocoon or even Apollo 13, which it's rather easy to imagine (no pun intended, considering the imprint with which Howard is associated) Spielberg helming. But there are a number of other Howard films, both good and bad, which it's next to impossible to imagine Spielberg having anything to do with. Backdraft? No way. Splash? I for one just can't see it. Maybe A Beautiful Mind, but one wonders how Spielberg's penchant for lumps in the throat would have played out in that story. Howard, for better or worse, is his own director, there's no doubt about it. If he often shares a certain treacly proclivity with Spielberg, he's certainly not the only one. It's downright impossible to think of Spielberg ever directing something like The Dilemma, a really odd little film that perhaps even Howard himself is wondering if he ever should have tackled. A completely uneasy mix of lowbrow comedy with a number of darker themes, this wants to be a traditional buddy comedy, but veers off so often into melodrama that most audiences will probably not be sure of whether they're supposed to laugh or cry. Literally. When you have two stars like Vince Vaughn and Kevin James, whether it's fair or not, audience expectations are going to be skewed toward a certain sort of entertainment, and it may be Howard's peculiar sort of courage that he defiantly works against those expectations, repeatedly in fact, in The Dilemma. Some viewers may actually find that bracing, but my hunch is the vast majority are going to be scratching their heads and wondering what exactly The Dilemma wants to be.
It's almost hard to know where to begin detailing some of the wrongheaded decisions made throughout The Dilemma. While comedies, indeed even farces, have been crafted about marital infidelity, either real or imagined, by everyone from Feydeau to Shakespeare, it's scenarist Allan Loeb's unwise decision to play things too straight, and certainly too dramatic, for the film's own purposes. This is a film which lurches uneasily from passing skittish laugh to passing skittish laugh with long melodramatic interstitials interrupting the flow. Unlike Loeb's largely appealing The Switch, there's no balance between the dramatic and comedic elements in The Dilemma, and the film's funniest lines are asides that have little to do with the actual plot (one of the funniest, just to give you an example, is when Vince Vaughn's character goes on about Helen Keller, having mistaken her for the schizophrenic Sybil of Sally Field telefilm fame).
The basic plot of The Dilemma is simplicity itself. Vaughn and James portray longtime buddies Ronny and Nick who have founded a car engine design company in Chicago. Nick has been married for years to Geneva (Winona Ryder), while Ronny, a recovering gambling addict, has been trying to rebuild an on-again, off-again relationship with his girlfriend, Beth (Jennifer Connelly). The film starts with a dinner conversation between the four where they question how quickly you can get to know someone. That of course is filmic shorthand that we're going to soon be in for some radical revisions with regard to at least one of the major characters, and just as certainly, that soon comes into play when Ronny spies Geneva cheating on her husband with a lame brained hunk named Zip (a surprisingly funny Channing Tatum).
A large subplot of this film involves Ronny and Nick attempting to sell a souped-up electric engine (which nonetheless roars and vibrates like a "real" gasoline engine) to Dodge, meaning large swaths of this film take place in Detroit. Why not just set the whole thing in the Motor City? There's nothing intrinsic to the film's machinations that require a Chicago setting, and it just seems rather odd that with a focus on car design the film wouldn't migrate naturally to Detroit. Could there have been some filmmaker tax incentives involved? When you're thinking about tangential issues like that as a film plays out, it's certainly not a good sign.
This is a film which plays like an overextended and bloated version of James' sitcom The King of Queens, except that it's nowhere near as funny. Once the basic premise has been set up, we spend over two hours of Vaughn's Ronny hemming and hawing and trying to tell James' Nick character that he's a cuckold. Things only get smarmier when he confronts Geneva, and she first informs him Nick regularly visits a Vietnamese massage parlor for weekly "happy endings," and then ups the ante by telling Ronny that if he squeals on her she'll reveal their long ago fling and claim that Ronny has been hitting on her again. A laugh a minute, right? Into this mess poor Jennifer Connelly's Beth just sort of dances around the edges, convinced that due to Ronny's increasingly aberrant behavior, he's on a gambling binge again.
Things aren't a total loss with The Dilemma, though you might think so as you slog your way through this often turgid mess. The actors are all excellent, especially Vaughn, who manages to convey conflict and angst without a hint of self-reflexive irony. James is also nicely mannered, with a nervous disposition that he pulls off effortlessly. Ryder is really uncommonly vicious in this role, but once again Loeb completely lets her down with an utterly unconvincing, and just incomprehensibly quick, denouement that pretty much just springs out of nowhere after two laborious hours. Connelly is absolutely lovely, but she's given so little to do she might as well be wallpaper. Despite the film's odd setting, Howard captures some really beautiful shots of Chicago, and there's a nice feeling for place here, however misplaced that place may be.
The Dilemma would have worked a lot better had Howard asked Loeb to deliver a flat out farce. When you have expert comic actors like Vaughn and James, it seems an outright waste to utilize them in this middling film which wavers uneasily between not very funny bits and hyperbolic melodrama. On the other hand, Connelly and Ryder seem like they're in a straight dramatic enterprise, and that odd juxtaposition makes this film a very weird mélange of moods and styles. The real dilemma with this film occurred before pen was ever set to paper and rests with whoever couldn't decide exactly what sort of film this should have been.
The Dilemma Blu-ray, Video Quality
The film itself may be a haggard mess, but few will probably complain about The Dilemma's sparkling AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer, in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. However odd it is that a film focusing on car design is located in Chicago, the Windy City itself looks absolutely marvelous in this presentation, with deeply robust colors (some of the river shots are amazing), and wonderful fine detail and depth of field. None of the cityscape shots revealed much if any artifacting, something relatively unusual in Universal BDs. The palette here is nicely variegated, with strong, consistent blacks and excellent contrast. The overall image is incredibly sharp, though some (probably second unit) footage seems just a tad soft, and despite the film's penchant for some darker interior scenes, detail is never lost amid the shadows.
The Dilemma Blu-ray, Audio Quality
For such a patently unambitious "bromantic comedy" (to quote the press sheet accompanying this Blu-ray), The Dilemma sports a very active and immersive lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that has a really surprising amount of dynamic range and some very forceful low end. The film has some great Chicago Blues augmenting its score, and the music fills the surrounds and sounds great throughout the film. And while dialogue is expectedly clear and clean, and foley effects are very well placed throughout the soundfield, what's really pretty surprising here is the abundant low end. When Ronny and Nick test their new "high octane" electric engine, we get some very robust LFE which is fairly unusual for this sort of film. A lot of the Chicago locations feature some excellent ambient sounds scattered throughout the soundstage, and the closing scene in The United Center is very impressively immersive.
The Dilemma Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Dilemma Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This is the rare case of an almost complete misfire by Ron Howard. Even when his films are flawed, as several of them have been, they are at least tonally consistent and seem to know what they want to be, for better or worse. The Dilemma is one of the oddest concatenations of styles in recent memory. The extremely talented cast just kind of flounders with material that is either not very funny or too hysterically dramatic. No dilemma here: this movie is a mess.
The Dilemma: Other Editions
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• Exclusive Giveaway: The Dilemma - April 29, 2011
Blu-ray.com, in conjunction with Universal Studios Home Entertainment, is offering three Blu-ray.com members the opportunity to win a copy of director Ron Howard's The Dilemma, a comedy about marriage and infidelity starring Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer ...
• The Dilemma Blu-ray Announced - March 3, 2011
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