A notebook of links and commentary on film and the arts, with occasional stabs at understanding current events. A mix of the serious and the silly, and with a special emphasis on Ms. Natalie Portman.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
In the early scenes of Miguel Arteta's comedy Cedar Rapids, an insurance executive named Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) learns that he'll represent his small Wisconsin company at a convention in Cedar Rapids and that he's responsible for bringing home another "Two Diamonds" award to his firm. Cedar Rapids is something of a Babylon for Tim, who's childless, a non-drinker, and sleeping with his former middle school teacher (Sigourney Weaver) in a relationship given a different level of importance by each partner. Tim is too much of a rube upon his arrival at the Convention; he doesn't understand why the hotel wants his credit card and can't pick up on the advances of a local prostitute (Alia Shawkat). An entire film of Tim's blunderings would have been dull and more than a little mean, but Tim (and the rest of us) are rescued by the arrival of three fellow conventioneers. Dean (John C. Reilly) uses bravado to hide his anger over a divorce. Ronald (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) is a straight arrow with an affection for The Wire; a gag I wish the trailer hadn't spoiled. Best of all is Joan (Anne Heche), who uses Cedar Rapids adventures as an escape from a humdrum Nebraska life. Heche hasn't had a role this good in years and she makes the most of it. Joan is sexy and irresistible to an inexperienced guy like Tim, but Heche also finds a well of deep sadness at Joan's remembering that another weekend fling won't change her situation at home. As the plot twists through insurance industry shenanigans and drug-fueled house parties the true subject of Cedar Rapids is revealed. Joan, Dean, and Ron all find ways to escape from themselves and from American definitions of success during the convention; it's the only way they can face the rest of their lives. Tim, whom Helms plays with a previously untapped sweetness, is living a life that hasn't started yet. His trip to Cedar Rapids gets him exactly where he needs to be.