This is the feature-length film based on John August's short film called God (1998). The 11-minute short pre-supposed what would happen if a modern girl were best friends with God. The feature-length version expands this idea. The same writer-director and even the same actress return, but in a more confusing expansion.
This film might also be a greater interpretation of Joan Osbourne's, Grammy-nominated song One of Us, which lyrics boast "What if God was one of us, just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home."
The film stars Ryan Reynolds who is not an actor I particularly liked. He's done a series of comedic roles, as well as a more serious one in Smokin' Aces (2007) that I all thought were awful. Bad movies and bad performances by Reynolds! He's a funny guy but his roles were more annoying to me.
You'd think in a film where Reynolds plays not one, not two, but three characters, it would have me shuttering, but no. Here, Reynolds proves how good an actor he can be. So much so, I will apologize for all bad words against him up until now.
The first character Reynolds plays is Gary Banks, an actor who stars in a ridiculous cop drama called "Crime Lab." Banks is put on house arrest after he crashes his Prius, following a hooker teaching him how to smoke crack.
Melissa McCarthy (Gilmore Girls) plays Margaret, Bank's publicist. Her job is to keep him from getting into further trouble. It seems, however, that she's developing a crush on him. Margaret isn't a beautiful, skinny blonde. She's instead a short, brunette fat chick. She's absolutely loveable but not someone Banks would normally go for.
Hope Davis (American Splendor) plays Sarah, the next door neighbor and stay-at-home mom, who after having trouble with her frustrating marriage, flirts with Banks. Sarah is the beautiful, skinny blonde-type that Banks would go for.
A slight struggle or competition ensues between Margaret and Sarah for Banks' affection. Margaret says that on a scale of one to 10, Banks is a nine. One would expect him to go for and date a girl like Sarah who could pass for a model/actress.
The second character Reynolds plays is Gavin Taylor. Taylor is a gay writer who is trying to get his TV show idea picked up by a network. At the same time, another TV show is being produced about Taylor, which chronicles him trying to get his TV show picked up.
Hope Davis plays her second character here as well. Davis is Susan Howard, the TV executive overseeing Taylor's TV show. In this part, she's not as flirtatious as she is overbearing and manipulative, but she plays it very well.
In this story, Melissa McCarthy also plays a second character. Except, Melissa McCarthy plays Melissa McCarthy, the actress from Gilmore Girls with whom Taylor is best friends and whom he wants to be the star of his TV show. If you hadn't guessed, yes, this is where the film gets partially autobiographical and majorly weird.
Writer and director John August is himself a gay writer who attempted to get a TV show picked up, and, in real life, August is friends with Melissa McCarthy. Though the narrative is not exactly what happened to him, there are many similarities, and on the DVD commentary, Reynolds makes it known that he was imitating August. Yet, he seems so natural at it.
But, to go from that character who is a nice guy, if slightly self-centered and selfish, to the third character that he plays, a husband and father named Gabriel, shows Reynolds' range. Gabriel is a videogame designer who takes his wife and daughter on a hiking trip, but their Prius breaks down. What folows is a creepy example of how a man sometimes needs an intervention, not one from drug or alcohol use, but one from his own wife and child.
Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy pop up again as different characters. McCarthy, this time, plays Gabriel's wife, Mary. However, Mary is not too much different from her previous incarnations, though not as sassy as Banks' publicist or as over-protective. She merely is a mother of a muted little girl, played by Elle Fanning, a great 9-year-old actress at the time. Mary has to deal with the fact that she's losing her husband, but why would he need an intervention from her?
What makes all of this curious and intriguing is that this story of Gabriel's family's hiking trip as place of refuge is actually the idea for the TV show that Gavin Taylor wrote, which the actor Gary Banks was set to star in. Yet, none of these three men are aware of each other. Which one of them is even real? Or, are they all mere imaginary incarnations in some kind of strange Russian Doll universe?
August first establishes a rather satirical look at Hollywood, the trials and tribulations of an actor and writer going through the gambit of balancing personal and private lives. Steadily, August starts to increase the spookiness, as Reynolds' many characters begin seeing the number nine everywhere. It evolves into somewhat of a thriller as an undercurrent, save the one musical number.
The DVD includes an explanation of the mystery, as well as analysis of the three formats used to photograph the feature. There's also a very cool script-to-screen option for us movie buffs.
Five Stars out of Five
Rated R for language, drug use and sexuality
Running Time: 1 hr. and 40 mins.