Published Sep 18, 2012As a metaphor, the road movie speaks for itself, acting as a physical representation of the internal, offering up a quest of personal revelations whether the protagonist is running to, or from, something that's often from their past.
With Arthur Newman, the message is exceedingly literal, with a man named Wallace (Colin Firth) faking his death and adopting the titular name in an effort to negate his mediocrity and self-imposed failure as a divorced man working in middle management for Federal Express.
Leaving behind a girlfriend (Anne Heche) and son (Sterling Beaumon), it isn't long before Wallace runs into the drunken Mike (Emily Blunt), whose dazed disposition around the motel pool suggests drug abuse. The pair bond over similar dispositions — she too isn't who she presents herself to be — eventually embarking on a (mostly) directionless journey of self-avoidance, following around various couples, breaking into their houses and pretending to be them. Various montages of dress-up and sexual theatrics ensue.
While uneven and clumsily paced — this is Dante Ariola's feature film debut, after all — the central thematic vein of escaping the hated self is handled quite maturely, as this unlikely duo simultaneously indulges and refutes each other's delusion. In avoiding their present reality, they reach emotional highs, enjoying an overly simplified, archetypal idea of what it's like to walk in another's shoes.
But the inevitability of reality and the flawed self impose repeatedly as an unavoidable entity, forcing both characters to acknowledge the things about themselves that they hate most, which is something that no road trip can help anyone escape.
While somewhat anticlimactic and a little less powerful than intended, there's something intriguing about this doomed journey of discovery. There are laughs aplenty amidst the psychological revelations and the candid handling of damaged people with an uncertain future elevates this seemingly light-hearted romance from its genre tropes, leaving the outcome unpredictable. (Focus)