Produced by Matthew Helderman, Joe Listhaus
Written and Directed by Jake Goldberger
Starring Freddie Highmore, Odeya Rush,
Haley Joel Osment, Christopher Meloni,
Marg Helgenberger, Taylor John Smith
There’s a problem with Almost Friends and it’s not the casting or the acting or the cinematography or the editing; it’s the story. Whether this is a problem for you or not may just be a matter of personal taste.
Jake Goldberger brings us the story of young man named Charlie, Freddie Highmore currently starring in the TV show The Good Doctor, who is stuck in a rut before most people have had a chance to create a rut. We’re invited to tag along as Charlie works his way through his ennui with the help of his friend Ben, Academy Award nominated Haley Joel Osment.
The plot ostensibly revolves around Charlie’s inept attempts at making a connection with local barista Amber, Odeya Rush, who has her own set of first world problems. Charlie wants to date Amber but is willing to be her friend when he finds out she has a boyfriend. People move around scenes and things happen but this storyline seems stuck for most of the movie.
Marg Helgenberger, from TV shows China Beach and more recently CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, plays Charlie’s mom Samantha and Christopher Meloni, from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, plays Charlies deadbeat mostly absent dad Howard. Howard weasels his way into staying with Charlie, in his ex-wife’s house. This gives the movie some if its best moments as Howard has no boundaries and Samantha is a mix of total frustration with Howard and not wanting to damage Charlie’s relationship with his Dad.
Highmore plays everything with a detached affect. Several characters ask him if he’s alright, more to remind us that he wasn’t always like this than get any meaningful answer or progress in the story. There is a trauma that has stopped Charlie from moving forward with his life but it is such a side element that it never seemed to be handled in a realistic or even moderately dramatic way.
The example set by the dreamer deadbeat dad sets a better stage for Charlie’s growth as an adult. With Howard as a fun-loving example of Peter Pan syndrome, Charlie can make allowances for and forgive his Dad for the bad things he’s done and continues to do. We see in the dad, not an example of a withdrawn failure to launch but a more extroverted quest for the easy route to the big win.
Eventually there are some tepid confrontations and Charlie makes some decisions that help us get to the end of the movie.
I like measured, well-paced (usually seen as kind of slow) indie movies but this one really didn’t do it for me. I was restless and kind of frustrated with the whole thing.
Almost Friends is now playing in theaters and On Demand.