Better Living Through Chemistry
It's not just every day that you find a film which suggests that the best
way out of career doldrums and a dull marriage is through infidelity,
experimentation with narcotics and plotting a murder.
Better Living Through Chemistry is surprisingly breezy dark
comedy/romantic comedy hybrid which rides some terrific acting performances
to make the film seem better than it actually is.
For Sam Rockwell's manic lead performance alone it is definitely worth
Rockwell plays Douglas Varney, a repressed small-town pharmacist who works
for his wife (Michelle Monaghan) Kara's overbearing father Walter (Ken
Howard). Douglas always does the right thing, never pushes the
envelope, eats sensibly, has boring hobbies and throws himself into a job he
hates. Even his grade school-aged son – a budding juvenile delinquent
who is conversely an overweight nerd – feels mostly disdain for his dad.
Doug is also pushed around by his customers and his employees, especially a
perpetually stoned delivery guy played by Ben Schwartz.
Doug has a problem with confrontation, he can never speak back to anyone, in
particular his blow-hard father-in-law and his passive aggressive wife.
Monaghan's wife character is a ball-busting horror. It is not hard to
believe that Doug needs something more in his life, but it is hard to
believe that he could have ever married her in the first place.
As so often happens in this kind of film, Doug is drawn out of his shell by
a femme fatale.
Elizabeth (Olivia Wilde) is an aging trophy wife who claims her husband (Ray
Liotta) abuses and ignores her. She also has a slight prescription
Some harmless flirtation and a couple of chance meetings lead to a
full-blown affair, in which the normally staid pharmacist realizes the
excitement of misbehaving. Soon Doug and Elizabeth are spending their
time making love, taking copious amounts of narcotics and fancifully
planning her husband's death.
Ironically, Doug's newfound freedom and confidence makes him more
interesting to the people around him. He tells off his father-in-law,
relights the fire in the bedroom with Kara and has a bonding moment with his
son revolving around an act of vandalism.
when his life seems to be hitting fantasy levels, reality comes crashing
through in the form of a DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) inspector looking
into the discrepancies between the pharmacy's narcotic roles and their
actual stock. Then on the day of the planned murder and fleeing to an
island paradise with Elizabeth, he randomly meets her husband and realizes
that her stories about him seem to be at the very least exaggerated, if not
All of which
leads Doug into a frenzied attempt to undo all of the crazed problems that
he has created in his own life since becoming smitten with another woman.
Better Living Through Chemistry has
some risky ideas, but mostly it's a kind of safe movie. Rockwell is
spectacular in the role of a man whose life keeps unraveling and he keeps
jumping from lifeline to lifeline.
movie itself is probably not worthy of Rockwell's performance, but it is an
amusing look at modern life spinning out of control.
Copyright ©2014 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: March 14, 2014.