Bill

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TORONTO -- The suddenly ubiquitous Aaron Eckhart extends his already impressive range as the put-upon title character in this effervescent (for the first hour, anyway) comedy, co-directed by first-timers Melisa Wallack and Bernie Goldmann.

Not afraid to show off a self-effacing, goofy side, Eckhart, who also stars in the Festival's controversial "Nothing Is Private," amusingly leads the way even when the film starts losing its quirky comic mojo and never gets it back again.

Had it not unraveled so completely, "Bill" might have made a modest name for itself at the boxoffice, but given its present state, theatrical prospects look challenging.

Having a perpetual bad hair day, Eckhart's paunchy Bill is stuck in a major rut.

Living under the thumb of his respected father-in-law (Holmes Osborne), who has set him up with a meaningless title at the bank he owns, Bill has been taking refuge in his many stashes of candy bars when he discovers his wife, Jess (Elizabeth Banks) is having an affair with vain local TV news anchor Chip Johnson (Timothy Olyphant).

Tired of standing back and watching his life pass before him, he finally takes action, encouraged by a cocky prep school student ("3:10 to Yuma's" Logan Lerman) whom he's been roped into mentoring.

In addition to going after his wife and the newsman, Bill decides to pursue his new dream of owing a donut franchise, while receiving some valuable fashion tips from the lingerie salesperson (Jessica Alba) who plays a part in his ultimate makeover.

When it's at its best in the early going, "Bill," which was scripted by Wallack, has the offbeat appeal of a "Flirting With Disaster," but around the same time Bill starts to take back his life, the picture falls into a fuzzy, feel-good funk.

The wheels seemed to be in motion for something a little darker and Eckhart was definitely up for the challenge here, subverting his leading man good looks with a lopsided, dopey smile and a protruding gut.

But, when all is said and done, Bill is let down by "Bill."

BILL
GreeneStreet Films
Credits: Directors: Melisa Wallack, Bernie Goldmann
Writer: Melisa Wallack
Producers: John Penotti, Fisher Stevens, Matthew Rowland
Executive producers: Tim Williams, Aaron Eckhart
Director of photography: Peter Lyons Collister
Production designer: Bruce Curtis
Music: Edward Shearmur
Costume designer: Mari-An Ceo
Editors: Greg Hayden, Nick Moore
Cast:
Bill: Aaron Eckhart
Lucy: Jessica Alba
Jess: Elizabeth Banks
The Kid: Logan Lerman
Mr. Jacoby: Holmes Osborne
John Jr.: Todd Louiso
Chip Johnson: Timothy Olyphant
Running time -- 97 minutes
No MPAA rating
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