As the film goes on layer upon layer of warmth, complexity and ever increasing heartbreak are painfully revealed through both actors’ precise performances and an intelligent script. It’s a tricky thing to make a movie about two people talking over dinner, and many fail in the attempt, but here Jim Hemphill succeeds with a movie that reminds us of ones such as the Before Sunset trilogy but whilst very much remaining it’s own piece.
Perhaps it isn’t completely accurate to bring up the Before series, nor My Dinner With Andre as many other reviewers have, as the focus is somewhat different here to the vast wide ranging topics covered by those movies. In Trouble we are almost always focused on the central couple talking about themselves and each other. These two divorced fourteen years ago and are finally being able to sit down and actually look at themselves and their relationship. That’s not to say that they never talk about anything but themselves, but every time the conversation moves onto another topic it tells us something specific about the person who brought it up and the relationship between the two of them. It most strongly reminded me of Conversations with Other Women in fact. There’s a film about a divorced couple (Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart) which covers similar ground (hell it even shares the same tag line!) but whereas that focused on perspective, this is a study on the nature of relationships themselves.
Now, in the wrong hands this could have easily been a cliché filled bore. Luckily however the script contains several examples of piercing insight and continually resists the, perhaps expected lapses, into cheap and untruthful writing which it so easily could have embraced. With a great script on his hands Hemphill wisely holds back on any directorial flourishes and just allows his two actors to do their work. Throughout the film I couldn’t make up my mind as to which actor is stronger here as they both deliver seriously high quality work. Lea Thompson’s humour starts off as being very funny, but she can make a laugh become as tragic as it is joyful. Shea on the other hand radiates a likeability which is essential at first due to his character having a few less than perfect attributes, but his smirking persona becomes increasingly more effective as he lets us in more and more on what is hidden behind it.
There are very minor quibbles to make such as odd batches of dialogue needing to be trimmed a little and a slightly weaker opening scene than the rest of the film deserves, but none of these complaints are too significant and it feels like nitpicking really. The bottom line comes down to this: I was surprised by just how much I got out of the movie. It’s as warm as it is heartfelt, as tragic as it is funny and I thoroughly recommend that you don’t let it slip by.
What is the film’s greatest strength? The two lead performances.
Its greatest weakness? The opening scene could have been a little stronger.
Would I see it again? Yes I definitely want to check it out again!
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