By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 10, 2013 at 1:44PM
It’s understandable that for his first stab at feature filmmaking, Matthew Weiner might want to explore territory far from that of his brilliant long-form television drama, Mad Men. But it’s disappointing, even downright depressing, that the man who invented Don Draper couldn’t come up with anything better than the tired bromance refugees played by Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis in You Are Here. While it aims to explore the crooked path to male self-knowledge and a more harmonious place in the world, this tonal mess rarely puts a foot right as comedy and makes only marginal improvements when it turns poignant toward the end.
“You Are Here” is Matthew Weiner’s contribution to the modern man-child genre: a study of toxic selfishness presented at comedy that isn’t nearly funny enough for a film starring Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis, and nowhere near as serious as Weiner’s celebrated TV work. What “Mad Men” fans itching to see Weiner’s first attempt at feature directing don’t realize is that he penned this script well before his hit show existed, and the two projects share almost no creative DNA. Technically, it’s no worse than the average studio comedy...
Beyond an overstuffed screenplay, Weiner's biggest mistake is an attempt to fashion a James L. Brooks-esque dramedy out of the proceedings. It should be noted that even Brooks only succeeded with his own formula a few times (this critic would argue only twice) and it's a specific tone that's incredibly difficult to duplicate. "You Are Here" switches from slapstick comedy to serious family drama to romantic comedy to a mental health awareness drama over and over and over again. Even Brooks would have dropped at least two out of the four categories. Granted, Weiner directs a few individual scenes that are at least interesting to watch, but they all seem like they are cut from different films.
Generally the comedy sits uncomfortably with the drama. Weiner has made a sporadically funny but awkward film with a surprisingly conservative heart (surely nobody still thinks beards are antisocial?), and finished it off with a kiss-and-rainstorm climax that the Mad Men team would have laughed out of the room.
What is most difficult to comprehend here is what drove Weiner to devote so much time and energy to so lackluster a story. There is nothing wrong with a change of pace, or with using success in one medium to take on something very different in another. But why this story, at this time? Why saddle talented actors like Wilson, Galifianakis and Poehler with hackneyed roles and subpar material? And how can we avoid comparing the film with “Mad Men”? Too many questions, yes, but the truth is, “You Are Here” is a film so bad that these questions are the only thing worth discussing.