Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy and Lakeview Terrace) stars as Brian Callahan, a New York novelist who has written six best sellers. All six involve the same character and they're all mystery novels. Brian wanted to try something different, something that goes back to his literary roots. Therefore, he writes a new novel called The Good Doctor.
Unfortunately, nobody likes it, not even Brian's lawyer, Michael Murphy, played by Edward Burns. Michael couldn't even finish the book because he thought it was too boring. Brian's new book gets a whole bunch of bad reviews. At book signings, nobody wants to buy the new book. All his fans want is to write more of his old books.
At the same time, Brian has just seen his old college girlfriend, Patti Petalson, played by Selma Blair (Cruel Intentions and Hellboy). Brian sees her at a restaurant in Manhattan one night. Patti having a birthday dinner with her best friend, Kate, played by Emmy-winner Debra Messing (Will & Grace and The Starter Wife). Brian hesitates saying hello, but Brian's new girlfriend actually encourages him to do so.
This sets into motion what will become Brian's next book called Purple Violets. The inscription to which reads, "Today I found an old friend," and most likely the book like this movie is not simply about finding old girlfriends or boyfriends. It's about reconnecting. It's about second chances.
Indeed, all four of the main characters named above are looking for second chances. It calls upon all of them to re-examine their lives. Each learns what they thought they know, either about themselves or their relationships, may not have been what they originally thought.
It's funny to think that one might have to look backwards in order to go forward, but that's what happens here. For these characters, they become stuck, not totally unable to move but unable to move in a way that's satisfying. These events represent a second opportunity.
Edward Burns not only plays the lawyer but he also writes and directs this romantic comedy that's very much lacking in the romance and the comedy. It seems to be a lesser version of his recent Woody Allen-ish films like Sidewalks of New York (2001), but it's rather interesting.
Burns rises to a more Woody Allen-ish atmosphere in terms of dialogue and staging. This means simple camera set-ups allowing his actors and himself to merely exist and ponder the romantic lives or rather lack thereof of these intellectual Manhattanites.
Yet, it's not all as intellectual as maybe Burns was trying. Another independent film starring Frank Langella called Starting Out in the Evening (2007) also dealt with the love life of a novelist. In that movie, you obviously get a dose of similar issues like the wane of literary books for more pulp novels, celebrity memoirs or similar trash. One scene, where Langella's character talks about this, accomplishes more than Burns does here in several scenes.
Nevertheless, from a writing standpoint, Burns also offers up a very brilliant and inspired scene towards the end where Brian and his new girlfriend, played by Elizabeth Reaser, are fighting. The argument breaks into a back-and-forth tennis match about, which city is better for artists, New York or Seattle, and it devolves into a battle between which artist is better, a literary writeror a grunge or punk rocker. It's actually funny to watch.
This film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2007. It won Best Feature at the Savannah Film Festival that November. Released via iTunes on Nov. 20, 2007, it was the first feature film to do so. The film, not so ironically, has a great music soundtrack. The DVD, which has no special features, was made available on Aug. 26, 2008.
Three Stars out of Five
Unrated but recommended for mature audiences
Running Time: 1 hr. and 43 mins.