AWFJ Women On Film – “The Answer Man” – Susan Granger reviews

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Riffing on Neale Donald Walsch’s best-seller, “Conversations With God,” John Hindman has concocted an earnest, not-quite-satire of New Age wisdom that evolves into a mediocre romantic drama.

Cranky Arlen Faber (Jeff Daniels) is the neurotic, reclusive author of a veritable library of inspirational literature based on his international best-seller “Me and God.” For 20 years, this self-styled God-guru been hiding behind the closed doors of his townhouse in Philadelphia, refusing to have his photograph taken, sign autographs, give interviews or do anything to the publicize his books, much to the chagrin of his agent. Then he wrenches his back so badly that he’s forced, literally, to crawl to the office of a nearby chiropractor, Elizabeth (Lauren Graham), who has recently opened her practice. She’s a perky single mother with a seven year-old son Alex. Inevitably and predictably, they develop a relationship, particularly when Arlen endearingly bonds with the child. At the same time, Arlen also reluctantly befriends recently-out-of-rehab Kris (Lou Taylor Pucci), who is coping not only with his alcoholic father’s death but also facing the bankruptcy of his beloved second-hand bookstore.

Genial Jeff Daniels makes misanthropic characters sympathetic, particularly if you recall “The Squid and the Whale,” and Lauren Graham (“Gilmore Girls”) rarely finds film roles equal to her talent, while Kat Dennings (“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) and Olivia Thirlby (“Juno”) add youthful support. But novice writer/director John Hindman squanders their collective expertise with this meandering melodrama about dispensing wisdom that’s totally devoid of any meaningful impact, despite delving into universal themes like the father/son relationship, overprotective mothers, alcoholism and, of course, the perennial search for the elusive Higher Power.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Answer Man” is a banal, feel-good 5 with some unnecessary profanity that feels definitively discordant in this psycho-babbling concept.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.