Being lifelong friends can be difficult. Those relationships are tough, lovely work. Marriages are even more fraught, primed for passion or peril or plain old deceit.
Ron Howard's The Dilemma looks unpromising, with its opening in January's movie wasteland and a listless ad campaign that practically preordains an unaware audience. But it's a surprisingly honest comedy-melodrama that encapsulates all of the above facets of love and friendship while taking pains to dwell in the real world.
I say surprising because it's been 10 years since Howard helmed a film with this much heart, at least since 2001's A Beautiful Mind. The Dilemma, ably scripted by Allan Loeb, is being pitched as a romantic comedy with complications, but it's considerably more than what it appears. Anyone expecting a free-pass date movie should be prepared, after the credits roll, to discuss weighty emotional issues or, at the very least, Vince Vaughn's crumbling career and this film's tentative resurrection thereof.
Vaughn plays Ronny, best friend and confidant to high-strung Nick (Kevin James). Together, they design greenish electro-car stuff for Detroit, but their company hasn't yet cracked Chrysler. Nick is happily married to Geneva (Winona Ryder), Ronny goes out with Beth (Jennifer Connelly), and together the two couples live a seemingly charmed life. Then Ronny, on the verge of buying that ring, espies Geneva with someone other than Nick. Hence his dilemma: to tell or not to tell, and all that that implies.
The film is frontloaded with four strong actors and a minefield of a narrative. There's comedy, yes, but only so much. It's a helluva balancing act, but Vaughn nails it, and his nicely nuanced everyguy performance is aided by the always excellent Connelly and a sterling turn from James.
The Dilemma's foursome communicate naked honesty. This dilemma and its resolution feel real and true, even when the film is playing things for laughs.