Who’s In It: Mark Ruffalo, Ethan Hawke, Amanda Peet, Donnie Wahlberg, Brian Goodman
The Basics: Ruffalo, as “Brian,” stands in for writer-director (and co-star, in a supporting role) Brian Goodman in this semi-autobiographical story of Goodman’s own youth, one he spent doing drugs, doing crimes and doing time before getting sober and becoming a believably thuggish character actor in movies like The Last Castle. Turns out there’s a reason for those convincing portrayals.
What’s The Deal: Something tells me that it’d be more interesting to listen to Goodman tell this story himself at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting than it is to watch this movie. Not that it’s awful, but nothing you haven’t seen before—and a lot of it—is pretty much all you get for the entire running time. Petty crime, crack addiction, marital discord, prison redemption: any one of these problems is inherently dramatic. Just not here. You keep waiting for a big push forward into emotionally meaningful territory to come and it never does.
Points For: Ruffalo, being self-loathing. He makes it look authentic and he carries the movie even when it doesn’t exactly deserve to be carried. If he weren’t around it would just be Amanda Peet and Ethan Hawke doing South Boston accents.
More Points For: The attempt not to falsify things with a fake situation that Changes Brian Forever. Instead, the script aims for a slow accumulation of misery and, again, it’s Ruffalo who makes you believe in the idea that one day he just decided to get sober and that was that.
Best Scene That Probably Actually Happened In Real Life: Early in his small-potatoes crime career, a dognapping was involved. The dog in question on-screen is a poodle, clipped in all the stereotypically poodle-fied ways. Funny.