“Better Living Through Chemistry” (2014)
Douglas Varney (Sam Rockwell) is a mild mannered Pharmacist who is married to “Type A” personality Kara (Michelle Monaghan). Douglas doesn’t make any decisions in the family, whether is dealing with his son (Ethan), a juvenile delinquent in the making, or if the family is going on a bike ride, everything is decided by his very controlling wife. Douglas has just taken over his Father-in-law’s business but even there he doesn’t get to change the name of the pharmacy. His Father-in-law, Walter Bishop (Ken Howard) insists that it still be called Bishop’s. Even his employee’s run rampant over Douglas as his delivery guy (Ben Schwartz) delivers only when it’s convenient, and his cashier, Janet (Jenn Harris), would rather be anywhere else than work. Because it’s a small town, Douglas knows about everyone’s problems through their prescriptions, knowing who is depressed, sick and even if they are cheating on their spouses. Douglas lives by the code of the pharmacist that he won’t judge or tell on people. He thrives on being precise and following a routine.
Douglas’s life changes when he makes an after-hours delivery to a wealthy “trophy wife” named Elizabeth (Olivia Wilde). It seems Elizabeth is stuck at home, constantly waiting for her controlling husband to return from the big city. Douglas learns in that first meeting that Elizabeth is bored, lonely and has the taste for pills and booze. Douglas soon can’t resist the lure of Elizabeth, and they start an affair that will change both their lives. She talks him into trying some of the drugs that he dispenses, which, after much hesitation, he partakes wholeheartedly. He starts to loosening up, enjoying life and even starts to assert himself with both his kid and his wife. But trouble is just around the corner, and Douglas may have to pay for his sins.
This very funny film is written and directed by the team of Geoff Moore and David Posamentier. They perfectly capture the small town life, where everyone seems to be involved with controlling Douglas’s life. There is great chemistry between Wilde and Rockwell, their attraction to each other builds with every scene that they are in together. Wilde is perfect as the woman who sees the potential in Douglas. As she says in the film “as woman get older they look for the good guy, not the bad boy.” Wilde has come into her own playing these great character roles in the indie world, and she just gets better with every film. Michelle Monaghan isn’t asked to do too much as she plays the hard driven Kara without much range. Ken Howard is fine as the micro-managing Father-in-Law, and Ray Liotta plays Elizabeth’s husband, giving just the right amount of menace to the threaten Douglas.
The reason to watch this film is Sam Rockwell, who starts the film as a mild mannered, set in his ways, hen-pecked husband, but with Wilde’s help, discovers there is more to life than just distributing pills and learns to stand up for himself. Rockwell perfectly plays the everyman with great comic timing, showing a great flare for both physical and verbal comedy. Douglas gets to live the dream if just for a little while and Rockwell allows us to go along for the ride. With last year’s “The Way Way Back” and this film, Rockwell reminds me of a very early in his career Bill Murray. Like Murray in films such as “Meatballs” (1979) and “Stripes” (1981), Rockwell is the guy that is quick with the quip, a little goofy, but also someone that you would want to hang out with at a bar.
Overall this is quick witted and enjoyable film that had an ending that I didn’t quite see coming. It features two actors in Wilde and Rockwell that hit the comedic mark perfectly, making it a joy to watch. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is playing in Atlanta exclusively at Lefont Sandy Springs