So I saw a movie called A Little Help today. It stars Jenna Fischer as a mother whose husband dies and needs to pull her life together for herself and her son. I thought this movie was okay. Perhaps even good. Right off the bat, I’ll say that Jenna Fischer is good in this movie. She doesn’t give a Oscar winning performance or anything but she plays reserved yet weathered but a bit immature well. Her character Laura makes one bad decision after another and they don’t necessarily seem bad at the time but are definitely impulsive and a result of her grasping at straws as she tries to find some form of happiness. This is also however because she is not a strong person and she is really oblivious to why these things are bad ideas. She never shouts back at her problems, except at the dog next door that constantly is barking. At one point, her son (SPOILERS) lets the dog loose in an attempt to calm her down and when the neighbor yells at her and calls her a bad mother for raising a “monster”, she just goes and looks for the dog and takes the neighbor’s abuse.
Fischer plays this part well and she’s likeable enough to empathize with but also attractive enough to believe that she probably had things handed to her and therefore was unprepared for the situation that she’s in. Perhaps strange but watching this movie in high definition and looking at close ups of her face and seeing lines and freckles and imperfections on her face made me think “Wow. She is really beautiful.”
While Fischer is good in the movie, therein lies the problem with this movie: everything else. No one is particularly bad in this movie but no one is as interesting. This is Laura’s show and everyone else is basically additional plot points for her movie. Laura’s sister is a bitch but it’s never explained why other than she feels like Laura had it easy because she was pretty. Laura’s sister’s husband has a crush on her but it’s never told why he does other than superficial reasons (her laugh, her ass) or given any real context why she would feel the same way. Her mother is a monarch of sorts and feels privileged to always know what’s right for her but this doesn’t go anywhere other than she was “right” to send Laura’s son to private school. Her son is the most fleshed out character of them all but even he is just there to pose a problem in that he tells everyone at his new school that his dad died in 9/11, which she plays along with.
Laura has all these issues to deal with in the wake of her husband’s death. Her husband is played by Chris O’Donnell and he’s not a developed character but was never meant to be as he dies in the first 20 minutes of the film. In addition to the problems she’s having with her son and family, it’s implied and then confirmed that he was having an affair, which interferes with the malpractice lawsuit she’s reluctantly filing. This movie throws a lot at her but it’s merely just to show she has a lot to deal with. None of it is compelling in anyway.
There’s also some inconsequential moments. There’s a subplot with her sister’s son and how he wants to be a musician that goes nowhere and disappears about halfway through the movie. Also, in the second half of the movie, Laura goes on a date and has sex with him in a guess was an attempt to get her mind off of what’s happening. It’s never brought up in anyway later in the moment and I guess was added so we can see Jenna Fischer get dry humped (which I’m not entirely against but its trivial nevertheless).
The movie is really slow and shots tend to linger longer than they should have. The script isn’t very strong but it seems like it was done in earnest, with some real thought given to it. I know it seems like I hate this movie but I don’t. Just understand that this is basically a one woman show and you’ll enjoy Jenna Fischer give a good performance. She’ll keep you engaged in a movie that really shouldn’t. This is not escapism, which movies generally are. The main theme to this movie is weariness. Although the scope is small, this is a movie showing you reality sucks. There are no happy endings and things don’t even wrap up nicely. This is about someone having to adapt to what life has handed them and the reward is merely realizing you have to do that. One more thing: the trailer is totally misleading. This is not a quirky movie at all and is a very (perhaps too) serious drama. If you like Jenna Fischer, watch this now. A darker more tired Pam Beesly awaits you and proves she can carry a film as the lead. If not, I’d say rent it or check it out on Netflix. It’s worth at least a watch.