James Reviews Kat Coiro’s A Case Of You [Tribeca Film Festival 2013 Review]

caseofyou
Justin Long will forever be the perfect man-child, a person who seems to be in a constant state of playing a teen or a young man with no sense of direction. It’s not to say his character of Sam doesn’t have a grown up career. He’s a writer who gets paid for a living. He has a stoner friend/roommate and they share a beautiful (and must be rent controlled) apartment in New York City with tons of space. He even has the cool neighborhood coffee shop which is always a welcome site coming from the Starbucks Empire that stuck its flag into the Big Apple. But he’s a bit lost, writing novelizations of films (like Teen Vampire) and he wants more. He wants to write his own book, from his own words. And he is crushing hard on Birdie (Evan Rachel Wood), the barista at his coffee shop.

Sam is a shy guy, who just wants to get a word in edgewise when it comes to Birdie or even his publisher (Vince Vaughn), but he starts up a conversation while getting a refill and share a joke about a doodle of his, which he draws a little bit more on his head to depict Gorbachav. Sadly, when he goes back the next day, another barista is there (played hilariously by Peter Dinklage) and finds out she’s been canned for being late all the time. So begins our endless folly, he finds out her full name, finds her on Facebook (the home of casual stalking) and starts to see all her likes, such as Darwin’s The Origin of Species, her love of judo, guys who play guitar and Walt Whitman, among many other updates she makes that he decides to pick in order to impress her.

And this is where the problem ultimately comes from within the film. The conflict is one that we as the audience don’t truly feel bad for Long’s Sam. He’s a nice guy, a nerdy writer who feels inadequate when it comes to winning the heart of Wood’s manic pixie dream girl but as his roommate tells him straight away in the film, “Why don’t you just message her?” Of course Sam doesn’t do so, but then we wouldn’t have a 90 minute film with a roundabout plot. And while I loved the cameos from big name stars such as Vaughn, Dinklage, Sam Rockwell as a guitar teacher who played backup for The Spin Doctors, Brendan Fraser’s ex-boyfriend carpenter rocker, or even Peter Billingsly.

The more I think about the film, the more forgettable it becomes as the hours go by since viewing it. It’s not necessarily a ‘bad’ film, I did chuckle a bit throughout (even with a guy shrugging every 2 minutes next to me and saying, “Wood gives me wood.” every 5 minutes) but it doesn’t paint a healthy picture. We have Sam who, in order to get a girl to like him, primarily learns all her likes to better situate himself in her life. When a scene of conflict comes up at an art gallery, we don’t side with Sam at all. We side with Birdie and Long must have known that would happen because, as his character writes his semi-autobiographical tale, Vaughn and Billingsly are there as us, the audience, telling him what we are all thinking. But being that self referential in your script doesn’t make it smart or hip. It makes it rather lazy and lame, especially when we get the romantic comedy trope of the man running to the girl of his dreams, in order to apologize to her and win her back, no matter the cost. The movie ends on such a ‘duh’ moment and nobody really learns anything from the last 90 minutes, so why did we need to make the film in the first place?

A Case of You is a hard film to really hate but also not that easy to really like. On the one hand, it’s got that indie quirk factor that people tend to think is the ‘in’ thing these last few years (Lola Versus is an example I can think of right off the top of my head). On the other hand, Justin Long and director Kat Coiro have weaved together at times a bit cute yet sad and slightly demented tale of a man who could have saved us the running time and just asked Birdie out from the get go. Maybe in a different world, we would have had Long write a script about Dinklage’s gay barista, who was the moment my interest perked up when he was on screen. It’s not a good sign for your film when your brightest spot is a cameo by a friend of yours.