One of my hopes this month is that a ton of more eyes get to see Entanglement, a first rate comedy-drama directed by Jason James. Shooting a comedy centering on serious matters, along with a tinge of magic realism, is a heady feat. Thanks to engaging work from Thomas Middleditch and Jess Weixler, the movie absolutely hits the mark.
Heartbroken over his failed marriage and adrift in life, Ben (Thomas Middleditch) attempts suicide but thankfully fails in his attempt due to a set of unforeseen circumstances. Though Ben’s life is in chaos, he attempts to find a bit of meaning and order into his existence (he even has a chart written with permanent ink on his apartment wall). Once he discovers that a woman named Hanna (Jess Weixler) could have been his adopted sister, his life is thrown in a different direction.
Ben’s parents gave up Hanna after his mother became pregnant, and Ben grew up an only child. Believing having a sibling could have made all the difference, he eventually tracks Hanna down (with the help of his best friend/neighbor Tabby, played by Diana Bang).
Living in a figuratively small world is part of having a life filled with synchronicity, and Ben actually met Hanna while picking up his meds. Their chance encounter, which has a flirtatious Hanna shoplifting before casually exiting the store, is a shape of things to come.
While Ben is a reserved and unassuming fellow, Hanna is spontaneous beyond measure, and her spitfire spirit draws our protagonist into her extremely unpredictable universe. What begins as a connection of two possible siblings turns into a love affair, much to the disappointment of Tabby (who has possibly had eyes for Ben from the get-go, but Ben’s oblivious).
As witnessed in the films Apartment Troubles and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Weixler is an actor who simply commands the screen, and her charismatic and committed performance is the film’s crowing achievement. It’s a wonder that Weixler isn’t a bigger “star” (if I was an actual director, I’d cast her and Jennifer Ehle, another overlooked actress, in a female driven film noir).
With Weixler serving as the narrative’s gravitational force, Middleditch anchors the narrative with a ton of the heavy lifting. Middleditch has to navigate the humorous moments in Entanglement without overdoing it in the pathos department, and thanks to his understated (yet ultimately emotional) work, he succeeds.
The aforementioned magic realism is a bit of a hint to Ben’s state of mind during his union with Hanna, and director Jason James is able to weave all of these seemingly disparate elements (comedy, tragedy, surrealism) sans any type of narrative hitch.
For an indie film, the production value is also top notch, as James shoots beautiful compositions throughout even some of the film’s most minor moments. There’s a couple of old school soul songs that are infused into the film, as well, and although I have no idea who sang these wonderful tunes (I didn’t check the end credits), they immeasurably add to the film’s refreshingly diverse tonal shifts.
Though the best friend role is often given a minor role in many a story, Diana Bang brings an understated brio as Tabby, the woman who’s bonded to Ben even during the worse of times. Entanglement also features an interesting twist which, if it were a lesser film, would have been the ultimate reason to catch this flick. Instead, all of the elements of Entanglement feel as if they are organically connected to one another, and this refreshing interconnectedness supports the story’s own emphasis on finding (and cultivating) your own family.
The capper for me is the film’s climax, as James doesn’t inject a cutesy pat ending to placate happy ending seeking viewers. Instead, we understand that Ben , as long as he’s engaged with life, has miles to go before he sleeps. And even though there is bit of laughter and love to sail us through this charming tale, Ben continues to entangle the threads that weave in and out of his life. I suppose the happy ending, for moviegoers, is that Entanglement succeeds on so many fronts, and (pardon the Frost-ian pun) that should make all the difference.
Rating: 4 out of 5
***I also discuss Entanglement on this month’s episode of CinemAddicts:
Entanglement is now playing in theaters and is available on Digital HD and On Demand.