Release Date: 14-Mar-2014 (USA)
Length: 91 minutes
With: Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, Ray Liotta, Jane Fonda and Michelle Monaghan
It’s easy to press a reset button on a video game if the CPU starts beating you badly and you just can’t take it anymore. You get a fresh start with hopes that next time you don’t make the same mistakes that resulted in the initial smack down from Hal 9000. Doug Varney (Sam Rockwell) gets the chance to hit the reset button on his life after getting involved in an affair with pill-popping trophy wife Elizabeth Roberts (Olivia Wilde) in the wildly hilarious movie Better Living Through Chemistry.
Both Doug and Elizabeth are stuck in ruts. Doug gets no respect from his family. His wife Kara (Michelle Monaghan) is more interested in riding bikes than she is about riding Doug. His father-in-law Walter (Ken Howard) doesn’t see a man when he looks at Doug. And Doug’s son Ethan (Harrison Holzer) has a crap-load of problems that Doug can’t seem to fix. Elizabeth is a prisoner in a loveless marriage and relies on self-medication to get her through the days.
In a wonderfully shot scene at a stoplight, Doug and Elizabeth try to talk each other out of having an affair. But as the reflection of the light on the windshield turns from red to green, the two realize its time for their ruts to end. After their first encounter, Elizabeth convinces Doug to become a pharmaceutical bartender, mixing up little pills of happiness for them to both enjoy in their sexy time meet-ups.
Better Living Through Chemistry is unpredictable, tremendously funny and, at times, extremely heartfelt. From the opening sequence, which shows scenes from the quaint town of Woodbury in plastic model form, you know this film is going to be something different. And while there are some minor plot issues, the overall story is an entertaining one, with stellar acting from all involved.
This is the type of movie where all actors just click, resulting in a truly brilliant ensemble performance. Cameos from Ray Liotta and Jane Fonda add to the overall fun. But it’s Rockwell who steals the show here. He puts on an amazing display, switching from pathetic failure to confident douche bag with great ease.
The soundtrack is also remarkable, with standout tracks “Season of the Witch” by Donovan and Family Wagon’s “Keeper of the Medicine” coming at pivotal parts of the film. Overall, Better Living Through Chemistry is a movie that may get missed by the masses but probably shouldn’t. Judd Apatow should take notice that this is how it’s done.