SLIFF 2010 Review: A LITTLE HELP - We Are Movie Geeks

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Review by Stephen Jones

The main failing of A LITTLE HELP is, in some part, Jenna Fischer herself. Or, rather, it’s the role she is given. She plays the part well enough, but the character is written in such an inconsistent manner that there are times when she, through no fault of her own, seems to be playing it in a far too likeable manner. The opening shot is from the point of view of one of her patients as a dental hygienist. She’s pleasant and cheerful; when she starts to cry at the end, you feel for her. But after she leaves the job, argues with her kid, et cetera, she starts to be one drinking problem short of a pathetic character. Then when she gets home she starts drinking.

It’s a problem throughout the film, and it strikes me as odd considering none of the other characters have the same problem. Granted, it’s because most of them are fairly shallow to begin with, but her brother-in-law Paul (Rob Benedict of the show “Threshold”) has a decent amount of depth and consistency to him. Fischer’s character, Laura, is the only one with this problem. Once the film gets going it wouldn’t be as noticeable except for one of the story arcs involving her son. She allows, and even helps perpetuate, a lie he tells at school. In the context of when the movie was made it isn’t AS bad, but in the context of when it takes place it’s appalling, and kept me from really sympathizing with her for much of the film.

The scenes between Laura and Paul are the film’s highlights. They have really good chemistry together, and the way their story played out resonated a great deal with me. If the film were built around their relationship rather than Laura’s life as a whole, I think the film would have been much better. As it stands, it is still well made, and well acted, but with a central character that is too inconsistent to get behind.

A LITTLE HELP will play during the 19th Annual Stella Artois St. Louis International Film Festival on Sunday, November 21st at 4:00 pm  at the Hi-Pointe with actress Jenna Fischer in attendance. Ms Fischer will receive SLIFF’s Cinema St. Louis Award.

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