Joan Carr-Wiggin’s Character Study Receives a Failing Grade

MV5BMTM5MzQ0NzE2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjk2OTgxNw@@._V1._SX640_SY948_The people responsible for a hapless load of bunk called If I Were You can only be described as delusional. They think they have made an actual movie, when nothing in it qualifies.

This facile and contrived jumble of amateurish tedium begins like the famous cabaret ballad “Guess Who I Saw Today.” A woman passing a romantic bistro steps inside for a moment to buy her husband a piece of his favorite cake and spots a couple at a table for two in a secluded corner who are very much in love. The man is her husband. Before she can fully recover from the shock, she spots the girl in a nearby shop buying a rope to hang herself, follows her home and saves her life. The suicidal bimbo is so grateful that intimate details pour out—about their sex life, his miserable marriage and his plans for divorce. After enough time, enough scotch guzzled straight from the bottle and enough true confessions, it’s now the wife’s turn. Before night falls, wife Madelyn (Marcia Gay Harden) and mistress Lucy (Leonor Watling) not only bond but form a pact to give each other advice on their love lives. Madelyn seizes the opportunity to give Lucy every wrong piece of guidance that will destroy her. Everything backfires with the wit and babble of a brain-damaged mynah bird. The director is a rank amateur named Joan Carr-Wiggin, who also wrote the irredeemable screenplay.

When Lucy calls at night, stupidly not realizing it’s her own lover’s number, Madelyn pretends she’s on the phone with a man who loves her so much he has to hear her voice in the middle of the night. This unhinges her husband, Paul (Joseph Kell), until he loses all equilibrium. Now all three of them are miserable. Paul stops calling Lucy. Madelyn organizes all of her counsel to Paul’s mistress to wreck their relationship, but Lucy frustrates Madelyn by compromising her ideals to hold on to him. (“The worst thing about being the other woman is we never know when they’re dead. Who’s going to send us an invitation to the funeral?”) Obsessing about winning back Madelyn’s affection, Paul makes her breakfast and sends her flowers to the office where she is never seen doing any work.

Trying to get a grasp on this one-dimensional little exercise in chronic fatigue syndrome is like holding water in the palm of your hand with your fingers wide open. Madelyn accompanies Lucy, who wants to be an actress, to an audition and makes so much noise on her cellphone that she lands the starring role of King Lear. Then her mother dies, and while she’s waiting for the preacher to arrive, she meets and has sex with a total stranger whose father has just died in the same nursing home (the excellent Aidan Quinn, of all people, who has definitely had better luck elsewhere). “What do you do after sex with a stranger in a nursing home?” she asks. Don’t answer that. A third potential affair begins with a besotted co-worker whose wife thinks he’s gay when he sends her yellow roses. Chaos is heightened when everybody ends up at the same funeral. The movie grows sillier and more rancid with every new scene. I finally threw in the towel when Madelyn confesses she didn’t tell Paul about the night she didn’t come home after her mother died because he was being audited. Enough is enough, at both the Spanish Inquisition and If I Were You, which at times seem like the same thing.

It’s almost as impossible to guess what kind of fools would finance this drivel as it is to analyze what Marcia Gay Harden is doing in it. There’s an occasional smile line, like “If my family had given me that kind of encouragement, my whole life would have turned out differently … I’d be the one sleeping next to Brad Pitt right now.” But mostly it just redefines the word “asinine.” Marcia Gay Harden never makes a wrong move, but this movie is so futile, one goes away convinced that the moves she makes are hardly worth making.

rreed@observer.com

IF I WERE YOU

Running Time 115 minutes

Written and Directed by Joan Carr-Wiggin

Starring Marcia Gay Harden, Leonor Watling and Joseph Kell