Based on the novel by David Foster Wallace, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men is character study in its truest form. While there is an over-arching story of a woman dealing with her own relationship issues, the movie plays out in a series of talking-head segments where men talk at length about their exploits with women. Brief Interviews approaches film a bit differently than what you might be used to seeing, but despite a few slower scenes sprinkled through the length of the film, it is more successful than most indie films hope to be.
As we follow Sara Quinn, an ambitious graduate student, through the process of writing her thesis paper on the mating habits of modern men, we're introduced to 10-15 of her most interesting subjects. Hoping to get over her break-up by channeling her feelings into her work, Sara learns a lot more about relationships than she had ever hoped for.
There isn't a whole lot to Brief Interviews with Hideous Men on the surface. It's a bunch of guys talking about how they get girls to go home with them, their sexual adventures, or what it is they like to do in bed, mixed in amongst the life of the star Sara Quinn, who scarcely has anything to say in this film at all. But if you dig deeper, you start to see that the movie can mean a lot of different things depending on who is watching it. You can easily take most of the accounts from the subjects as funny, but you can also read them as sad or misguided. Some stories are touching, some are intense, and yes, some are there for the laugh, but all of them add something to the depth of the film.
First-time director John Krasinski, who you undoubtedly know as the unbelievably charming Jim Halpert on the U.S. version of The Office, took a chance with this one, and it played out very well. It doesn't follow traditional storytelling standards, forgoing a linear style to enhance the feel of the individual scenes. You may see subject #18 before you see subject #12, but each of their stories are mirrored in some way by or apply to the story of Sara's attempts to forget her ex. A mold is broken, but it's creative and works well for the piece.
As such, the film feels very "scene specific" rather than fully congruous like linear films. There are a handful of scenes that are sort of mind-blowing in their effects and ideals, and while there are some that bore almost to tears, one or two remain iconic. Seeing Dominic Cooper verbally assault Ms. Quinn about his own life story is as gripping as anything you'll see this year, and John Krasinski eventually steps out from behind the camera and delivers the film's final monologue flawlessly, bursting with emotion.
The downside is that those few scenes that bore do so in such a way that grind the film's momentum to a screeching halt, and you'll find yourself begging for them to end. On top of that, you're repeatedly dumped back into Sara's story, which is less compelling than most of the stories told by her subjects, so it takes a bit of time to pick back up again. It's not bad enough that you'll walk away saying, "Wow, that movie was terribly slow," but it will make you question whom you recommend it to.
Despite its faults, which are few and expected from a first-timer, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men entertains in ways many movies don't. You'll have to think about what you're watching, both during and after your viewing, to really get out of it what was intended by the filmmakers. I wouldn't recommend this to everyone, as its pace is slow throughout and crawls during the dead scenes, but it's certainly worth a watch for those of you who love some characters and love to hate others.
It doesn't feel right giving this disk a low score simply because it doesn't have many features, since you can't really expect a movie like this to be brimming with money to pay for behind-the-scenes cameras. There are no special effects for countless animators and stunt people to discuss, no expansive interview where the director talks at great length about how awesome he is (I'm looking at you Michael Bay). There are only two features, and you can get through both of them in one 10-minute period sitting.
The disk includes a very short, impromptu interview with John Krasinski, who looks more like he's eating his lunch than being interviewed. He reflects back on his film from conception to completion and talks about it in such a way that makes you like the movie more than you probably did. He's very passionate and has given a lot to the project, and it's inspiring. While it's not a typical interview, it's still worth taking two minutes to hear what he has to say.
The only other included feature is a five- or six-minute behind-the-scenes look at the film, which is comprised mostly of the actors talking about their experiences on the film and their time with Krasinski, who is apparently a joy to work with. There's not a ton going on in here, and thankfully the producers of the piece spare us by not trying to force a 20-minute video out of something with much less content. You will learn from the few shots of Krasinski working that his charm and fun-loving personality is the same as if he were Jim Halpert in real life. He exudes positivity, even when he's clearly at the peak of his stress level.
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men may not be a "buy" for everyone, but for some it will fit nicely into your repertoire. It's not bursting at the seams with action or comedy, but is a dramatic character study that will please the people who are looking for exactly that. The features are hardly worth mentioning as a selling point, but the film speaks for itself and is a great first attempt from a rookie helmer. Look for more from John Krasinski, maybe not soon, but in the near future.