Directed By Meg Ryan
Starring – Meg Ryan, David Duchovny, Hal Liggett
The Plot – Two ex lovers, Bill (Duchovny) and Willa (Ryan) get snowed in at a regional airport overnight. Indefinitely delayed, Willa, a magical thinker, and Bill, a catastrophic one, find themselves just as attracted to and annoyed by one another as they did decades earlier. But as they unpack the riddle of their mutual past and compare their lives to the dreams they once shared, they begin to wonder if their reunion is mere coincidence, or something more enchanted.
Rated R for adult language, some sexual references and brief drug use
Ryan and Duchovny are better suited as friends than lovers, and when the movie exudes this quality, the film is the most fun to experience, which makes me wonder why they even attempted the fictional narrative to begin with. Call a movie “Meg and David Have Fun in an Airport”, and I’m thoroughly on board, especially since it’s during those times when the film evades the lackadasical consistency that plagues its prominence, in turn emitting the warmth of charisma from both of them that we depend so faithfully in. Despite the insufferable personalities and quirks from their thin respective characterizations, Meg and David are a delight, committing themselves to emotional and physical articulation in ways that not only make these “Types” feel like living, breathing entities, but also the kind of people who vividly articulate why it never worked out between them in the first place. For Ryan, it’s her first on-screen role in 8 years, and while the director’s chair overwhelms her frequently throughout, her charms to radiate the silver screen simply can’t be understated, all the while enveloping the project in a gift-wrapped dedication to the long-time friend and director who arguably gave Meg her first big role; Nora Ephron. Like Ephron, it’s environmental elements that Ryan seems to have picked up on the most, here generating the monotony of unknown artists covering major pop music favorites for the overhead soundtrack in the airport, to which Duchovny even scoffs about as his anxious curmudgeon. Beyond this, the only other thing to praise is in the deviation to storytelling, which instills more surprises than you might expect from a film so familiar and bluntly forceful in its execution. The ending is an homage to romantic comedies of the 60’s and 70’s, where resolution comes with maturity, and though these characters spend hours bickering in an airport while tearing each other down, there’s a real sense that each of them are better people by film’s end.
This movie feels like milennial fan fiction from someone regretful of the way their rocky marriage ended. I say that because nothing in this movie feels genuine or even remotely believable, beginning with a one stage setting of this airport, which feels strange for a variety of reasons, particularly the scarcity of surrounding citizens in gates and corridors, which are almost always crowded, or at the very least influenced by a few waiting passengers. This lack of exterior elements beyond the dynamic of our leads garners this uncanny quality to the production that alludes this film may have fallen victim to Covid-19 shooting restrictions, and when combined with the meandering monotony of David Boman’s tonal transparancy of a musical score, leaves much to be desired in the interpretive capabilities of the audience. But if it’s the worst of the worst you want, I would probably go with the dialogue, which alienates in a variety of reasons. For starters, this overhead narration from a mysterious airport paging system continuously speaks directly to our leads, which only further emphasizes my previous theory, all the while driving the hilarity from it by the tenth time it uses this aspect, by the film’s fifteen minute mark. The dialogue between Ryan and Duchovny is also insufferable, whether in the profound life metaphors that they garnered from Hallmark cards, or the constant bickering between them, which feels so arduously forced with confrontation that you can’t help but roll your eyes every time one of these healthy conversations turn into a shouting match. Just a couple of nights ago, I mentioned how during “Priscilla”, the dialogue between Elvis Presley and his bride was a chore to continuously sit through, and here it’s so much worse, and doesn’t even have any kind of abuse factor for its influence. It’s bad enough that every conversation between them leads to an argument, but even worse that the two actually share the same name, in Will and Willamena Davis, so every time they’re speaking to each other, they refer to the other as W. Davis, which is this constant nagging of an inside joke that is hammered home with the kind of subtlety of a Sherman Tank roaring through a gas station. Finally, the visuals of this film are bad for a variety of reasons, but mostly the presentation and corresponding special effects, which breed an air of shallow artificiality to the proceedings that are aghastly to say the least. Considering this is only Ryan’s second directing effort, her lack of experience dominates the depictions, with strange framing choices jarring the captures that often places the audience at a grave distance from these proceedings, and when combined with this horrendously ugly blue color grading attained in post-production, cements this uncanny drab that is an ocular poison to interpret. As for those aforementioned special effects, these artificial snowflakes would be bad for a Nora Ephron movie from 1992, but in 2023, they’re inexcusable, especially when the consistency between scene to scene varies in texture and even influence, failing on even the most basic of measurements.
“What Happens Later” remains grounded with a loveless canvas and several bizarre instances of production that strands two charismatic turns from its dazzling duo. Most importantly, the film is an undercooked bore inside the confines of a one stage setting that grows tediously taxing by its midway point, leaving Ryan’s sophomoric directing effort defined by the coldly blustering conditions of artificiality that can be seen and felt, intentional or not, in every frame of the merciless 98-minute run time.
My Grade: 3/10 or F+