Some people drift through life, moving from one thing or one person to the next without batting an eye; others latch on to a cause, another person or a principle and remain adamant, committed to whatever it is-- and figuratively or literally they give their word and stand by it. But we're all different, `Made of different clay,' as one of the characters in this film puts it, which is what makes life so interesting. Some people are just plain crazy, though-- and maybe that's the way you have to be to live among the masses. Who knows? Who knows what it takes to make things-- life-- work? Writer/director Lisa Krueger takes a shot at it, using a light approach to examine that thin line between being committed-- and how one `gets' committed-- and obsession, in `Committed,' starring Heather Graham as a young woman who is adamant, committed, obsessive and maybe just a little bit crazy, too. Her name is Joline, and this is her story.
Admittedly, Joline has always been a committed person; in work, relationships, in life in general. She's a woman of her word who sticks by it no matter what. And when she marries Carl (Luke Wilson), it's forever. The only problem is, someone forgot to tell Carl-- and 597 days into the marriage, he's gone; off to `find' himself and figure it all out. When Joline realizes he's not coming back, she refuses to give up on him, or their marriage. Maybe it's because of that `clay' she's made of. Regardless, she leaves their home in New York City and sets off to find him, which she does-- in El Paso, Texas, of all places. But once she knows where he is, she keeps her distance, giving him his `space' and not even letting him know she's there. She considers Carl as being in a `spiritual coma,' and it's her job to keep a `spiritual vigil' over him until he comes to his senses. And while she watches and waits, her life is anything but dull, as she encounters a young woman named Carmen (Patricia Velazquez), a waitress at one of the local eateries; Carmen's `Grampy,' (Alfonso Arau), who is something of a mystic; T-Bo (Mark Ruffalo), a truck driver who has issues concerning Carl; and Neil (Goran Visnjic) an artist who makes pinatas and takes a fancy to her. For Joline, it's a journey of discovery, during which she learns a lot about Carl, but even more about herself.
There's a touch of humor, a touch of romance, and some insights into human nature in this quirky film that is more about characterization and character than plot. And Krueger presents it all extremely well, delivering a film that is engaging and entertaining. Her characters are very real people, with all the wants, needs and imperfections that make up the human condition; a rich and eclectic bunch through which she tells her story. We see it from Joline's point-of-view, as Krueger makes us privy to Joline's thoughts and therefore her motivations, which puts a decided perspective on the events as they unfold. That, along with the deliberate pace she sets that allows you to soak up the atmosphere and the ambiance she creates, makes for a very effective piece of storytelling. There's an underlying seriousness to this subject matter, but Krueger chooses to avoid anything heavy-handed or too deep and concentrates instead on the natural humor that evolves from the people and situations that Joline encounters. And the result is a well textured, affecting and upbeat look at that thing we call life.
Heather Graham takes hold of this role from the first frame of the film to make Joline a character totally of her own creation. She immerses herself in the part and gives a performance that is convincing and believable, adding the little personal traits and nuance that makes all the difference between a portrayal that is a mere representation of a person, and one that is real. And for this film to work, it was imperative that Joline be viable and believable-- and Graham succeeds on all fronts. Her screen presence has never been more alluring, and her vibrant personality or even just the way she uses her eyes, is enough to draw you in entirely. it's all a part of the character she creates; there's an appeal to Joline that exudes from her entire countenance, who she is inside and out. She's a likable, agreeable person, and because you've shared her innermost thoughts, you know who she is. It's a good job all the way around, beginning with the way the character was written, to the way Graham brings her so vibrantly to life.
As Carmen, Patricia Velazquez is totally engaging, as well. Her performance is very natural and straightforward, and she uses her instincts to effectively create her character. She has a charismatic presence, but is less than flamboyant, and it gives her an aspect that is attractively down-to-earth. She is refreshingly open and up-front; you get the impression that Carmen is not one to hold anything back, but is totally honest on all fronts, and that, too, is part of her appeal. And, as with Joline, this character is well written, and Velazquez brings her convincingly to life.
Overall, there is a number of notable performances that are the heart and soul of this film, including those of Luke Wilson, Casey Affleck (as Joline's brother, Jay), Goran Visnjic, Alfonso Arau and especially Mark Ruffalo as T-Bo, who, with very little actual screen time, manages to create a memorable character.
The supporting cast includes Kim Dickens (Jenny), Clea Du Vall (Mimi), Summer Phoenix (Meg), Art Alexakis (New York Car Thief), Dylan Baker (Carl's Editor), and Mary Kay Place (Psychiatrist). A film that says something about the value of stepping back to consider The Big Picture-- reflecting upon who we are, where we're going and what we really need-- `Committed' is an enjoyable experience; a ride definitely worth taking. 8/10.