Posted May 14, 2009 in Film

What price romantic glory, asks 38-year-old motel manager Steve Zahn when he ditches his parents and his infantalized adulthood to follow businesswoman Jennifer Aniston across the country. Zahn specializes in playing overgrown children. His face is both old and young—he must have looked the same at 9 as he will at 90. What redeems this should-know-better oddball is Zahn’s sincerity. Playing a character who is quite literally a stalker, he’s harmless, but not blameless. In the same role, Adam Sandler would be creepy; John Cusack, too sweet. In writer-director Stephen Belber’s dramedy, Zahn falls for guest Aniston the moment she checks in. We don’t share his infatuation. Aniston is asked to play one of those too-brittle females who carp about recycling and defend their hearts with flirt-proof walls. (It’s a stiff character introduction, but to her credit, Aniston is always aware of her character’s loneliness.) Eventually, after he’s ditched his entire life, we see a glimmer of Aniston’s warmth—she’s too nice, we’re shocked to learn, and spends her nights giving out meal coupons to the homeless. She’s unimpressed with Zahn’s devotion; they’re the same age, but he’s in essence two decades her junior. This is one of those comedies content that the audience rarely laughs aloud (so much the better to transition to the third act’s pathos). Halfway through, Belber distracts Zahn before he gets too desperate by giving him new BFF James Hiroyuki Liao and new rival Woody Harrelson (hilarious and under-used), who plays Aniston’s ex-punk ex-boyfriend, now a rich yogurt mogul. It’s a relief that this comedy is too smart to suggest that stalking works. It doesn’t. But it does trigger Zahn to undergo that boy II man transition so fashionable among today’s stunted heroes, and the how, why and benefit of his forged adulthood is one of the film’s sweet pleasures.


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