Director: Justin Theroux
“Success in this business is 99% perseverance and 1% talent,” children’s book publisher Arthur Planck (Bob Balaban) tells three in-house illustrators before dismissing two of them to give the sole female, Lucy Reilly (Mandy Moore) her big break. By this point, it’s evident to the audience that the question isn’t whether or not Lucy is talented and she undeniably is but whether or not she can persevere to work with the publisher’s most unspeakably cruel, judgmental, depressing and misogynistic yet successful authors, Henry Roth (Billy Crudup) after his longtime collaborator Rudy Holt (Tom Wilkinson) dies.
With a constant unease about his existence and a preference to lay on the floor with heavy objects (usually books) atop his body to keep him feeling safe and secure, Henry is a walking time-bomb who, despite producing the wildly popular Marty the Beaver children’s book and being prompted for a sequel, spends most of his time alienating everyone he meets as punishment for his misery and “crap childhood” as well as imagining he’s speaking to Rudy throughout the film even while in the presence of Lucy. Eager to rip his new partner to shreds, he takes Lucy to a diner for a meeting and like most writers, proceeds to inventively create stories about those with whom he comes into contact yet each story is filled with such contempt and horror that Lucy soon flees, only to return with the promise of a two hundred thousand dollar bonus from the publisher to get the book finished, when she’s strapped for cash and nearly kicked out of her apartment by her controlling landlady, Carol (Dianne Wiest) who happens to be her mom.
Hardly the stuff of an “uplifting romantic comedy” as the back of the film’s box promises and while there’s not much going for the film to keep us invested for the first half, the actors (especially Crudup who by this point has made a career of playing neurotic jerks) keep us watching. In addition, there are enough surprises wherein the film fails to go down routes of predictability as when Henry, who beginning to have feelings for Lucy, has the means to crush her former flame seeking a second chance and doesn’t, to make us forgive some of its overly aware eccentricities the filmmakers hoped were quirky but in all reality were just plain annoying.
Making his directorial debut from a first time script by David Bromberg, actor Justin Theroux (Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Mulholland Drive) is best when giving his fellow character actors such as Crudup and Wilkinson a chance to shine and misguided when he tries too hard to make some moments overly romantic such as a cringe-worthy confrontation where Crudup pleads for Moore to take him back with more than enough bizarre profanity and crazy stream-of-consciousness dialogue to have anyone (let alone a possible mate) head for the hills. Still, particularly admirable in giving Moore another opportunity to break out of the twenty-something romantic girl movie pack in offering her character a story arc of her own. In Moore's hands, the thoughtful and intelligent Lucy becomes more than simply a one-dimensional cliché of the rescuing, selfless angel out to melt a cold man’s heart who masochistically casts hers aside in the process. However, similar to Lucy's character, overall, the bottom line of Dedication's success will be up to the viewers to decide whether or not they'd like to persevere in the company of Crudup's Holt for the film's entire running time.