A Little Help (2011)

by George Watches Things

**

This was one long and expensive heart checkup PDA.

Jenna Fischer, the wonderful Pam from The Office, plays Laura, a woman in a dying marriage. Her husband is played by whoever and does whatever. It doesn’t matter because he dies of a heart attack rather soon after the film starts. (The circumstances, by the way, surrounding the death? Gimme a break.) Laura is left alone to deal with a son who tells lies (such as “my father died saving people during 9|11”) and a family which wants to control her life in every way. Laura’s family felt very real, each member having their own ticks and levels of harshness… except for Paul, her sister’s husband, who is played by Ron Benedict.

Paul, after noticing she’s been having difficulties lately because of a lawsuit her sister wants to pursue, drops a bombshell love secret admission on Laura. It was really bad. I didn’t buy Paul and Laura at all.

The movie tries to mix dramatic and comedic moments in the same scene, but it doesn’t work. Fart jokes and serious talk about death don’t go well together. Some of the dramatic dialogue is flat, and occasionally not even believable. The drama caused by the lawsuit wasn’t compelling at all. In addition, the movie tried to focus on too many family members, ultimately spreading itself too thin.

Jenna Fischer has some chops, but A Little Help offers her no help. It robs us of a good moment by having Fischer permit her son to tell people his father was a 9|11 hero via keyboard, a decision I don’t really understand. This film didn’t really make me interested in any of it, aside from Jenna Fischer’s character. It had potential, but failed to really hold me, despite a pretty good performance from Fischer.

The movie keeps beating up on Laura, and I didn’t enjoy watching that. It started with little things, like Laura’s sister calling her insane for wanting to drop the lawsuit. But then it grew. The whole “Ginger the dog” sequence of events was somewhat pathetic. It felt like the movie was giving up, just repeating old mantas and hoping that it would work. But it didn’t. Neither Laura nor her son, the two involved in the scene, went anywhere.

And the discriminating viewer will see the 9|11 lie sitcomy gas-station fiasco stuff coming from a mile away, and they will hope it ends tastefully. I’m sorry to have to inform you that it doesn’t.

I felt sorry for Laura Pehlke, but there was nothing I could do. The film was afraid if it gave her an inch, she would take the whole film. That would have been an improvement.

Notes:

  • “The ex wants to take them to Pakistan”
  • “Nothing with like… ropes…”
  • “As I told you before, I was a little intoxicated”
  • I really like where the title of the film came from: Paul hitting tennis balls near Laura in high school.
  • I wanted that kid to continue explaining the hidden ball trick in baseball.
  • While I thought it was a rather bad film, I would rather watch A Little Help 100 more times than see the soon-to-be-reviewed Bleeding House just once more.
  • A Little Help is available now on Netflix Instant.
  • If you see A Little Help and are left wanting more, I suggest An Education and World’s Greatest Dad.
  • As of November 12, A Little Help is the 25th best/3rd worst film of 2011, in my humble opinion.
  • Coming soon: Talk of food and a top 10 list.
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