The Year of Getting to Know Us

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Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY -- Patrick Sisam's "The Year of Getting to Know Us" is a comedy in name only. Even in a year when many of the films in Sundance's prestigious Premieres section were sub-par, this one seemed particularly lame. Any distributor who decides to buy this misfire can start counting their losses.

The film opens with a heavy dose of voice-over narration, always a sign of failed writing. As the film continues, it devolves into yet another dysfunctional family saga, drenched in forced whimsy and soggy platitudes. Chris Rocket (Jimmy Fallon) is a New York writer called to Florida by news that his father, Ron (Tom Arnold), has suffered a stroke. Although Chris always has had a strained relationship with his father, he flies to Florida to try to make peace with his past. The film intercuts Chris' present experiences with flashbacks to his childhood spent with his distant father, whose only passion goes into his golf game, and his frustrated mother (Sharon Stone).

Besides coming to terms with the demons of the past, Chris also is trying to resolve his relationship with his girlfriend, Anne (Lucy Liu). His fear of commitment, no doubt derived from his own messed-up family, is aggravating Anne. Can Chris achieve a rapprochement with his parents and find romantic contentment?

It's hard to care about the resolution to either problem. Chris is so unrelievedly glum throughout the movie that we quickly lose patience with him. This script problem is exacerbated by the fact that Fallon has no magnetism. He's not really a movie star, and he can't hold a film together on charisma alone. Arnold and Stone are stuck in one-dimensional roles, and though they're game, their antics rarely seem funny or charming. Stone also has been given garish orange hair for her present-day scenes, and while one might laud her for lack of vanity, the makeup, like so much else in the movie, is exaggerated and grating.

The script by Sisam and Rick Velleu alternates between strained attempts at humor and even more excruciating stabs at profundity. "In pain, you find your truth," the film intones, and one feels like gagging. A few of the supporting players survive this train wreck. Liu brings a measure of gravity to her scenes, and Tony Hale, who plays Chris' horny childhood friend, actually gives a performance of delicacy and nuance. As a neighbor fooling around with Ron, Illeana Douglas also manages to surmount a stock part.

First-time director Sisam fails to take advantage of the Florida locations. Lisa Rinzler's cinematography is disappointingly flat, and the editing is slack. "Year" moves toward a bittersweet conclusion, but the only emotion it generates is a sense of relief that all this self-indulgence is finally over.

THE YEAR OF GETTING TO KNOW US
Ring Prods.
Credits:
Director: Patrick Sisam
Screenwriters: Patrick Sisam, Rick Velleu
Based on short stories by: Ethan Canin
Producer: Holly Wiersma
Executive producers: Howard Butler, Warren T. Goz, Ed Machek, Lou Maggio, Stewart McMichael, Lawrence Najem, Michael Ossi, Lance Ringhaver
Director of photography: Lisa Rinzler
Production designer: Susan Block
Music: John Swihart
Co-producer: Laura D. Smith
Costume designer: Jill Newell
Editor: Susan Shipton
Cast:
Christopher Rocket: Jimmy Fallon
Ron Rocket: Tom Arnold
Jane Rocket: Sharon Stone
Anne: Lucy Liu
Young Christopher: Chase Ellison
Nickie Apple: Tony Hale
Christine Jacobson: Illeana Douglas
Running time -- 100 minutes
No MPAA rating
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