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DVD Review: Meet Bill

Aug 3, 2008
Meet Bill, an existentialist comedy written by Melisa Wallack and directed by Melisa Wallack and Bernie Goldmann.

The Film

"Meet Bill" is like a box of donuts--a sweet package of guilty fun, with a few holes. Donuts figured prominently in the plot, but also served as a subtextual symbol of the main character's empty-calorie life. Bill (Aaron Eckhart) plays the dumb lackey to his arrogant in-laws at their prosperous bank. It seems everyone walks on Bill until he really has something to cry about. His over-the-top reaction to his wife's affair with a local news anchor earns him notoriety, just as a smart-aleck teen (Logan Lerman) enters his life through a mentoring program. The teen hatches a plan to win back Bill's wife Jess (Elizabeth Banks)--persuade lingerie sales girl Lucy (Jessica Alba) to act as a decoy.

Humor carries this movie. Slapstick and dry self-deprecation infiltrate almost every scene, and truly make it an enjoyable watch. The subtle gay humor provided by Bill's brother Sargeant (Craig Bierko) and partner Paul (Reed Diamond) was a particular highlight.

As a female screenwriter, I was impressed with writer and co-director Melisa Wallack's ability to poke fun at the insecurities of men and the women who love them. Casting was also a strong suit--Aaron Eckhart makes a great schmuck, and Elizabeth Banks was note-perfect as a petulant wife with a soft side.

The quirky turns of the plot hooked me early; by conclusion, some characters fell into predictable stereotypes. "Meet Bill" shines when it lives out its true "donut" identity. Wallack and Goldmann try to sneak a few existentialist life lessons into later scenes. These "good for you" messages cost "Meet Bill" some of the intelligence native to indies, and gave it the ring of standard Hollywood fare.

Another shortcoming of "Meet Bill" is its lack of interesting minority characters. The funny lines of two minority characters were edited out (see "Extras"), and I was put off by a racist crack at Donald Choo (Andy Zou), the sole Asian character. Ethnic humor can be terrific, but only if filmmakers lampoon all ethnicities, or poke fun at the stereotype instead of a person.

The DVD

Packaging: The package design is fresh, and fits the film well. A plastic overwap shows Aaron Eckhart in a striped shirt that's continuous with jail-cell bars. Pictures of Jessica Alba and Elizabeth Banks flank him. Beneath the overwrap, Eckhart has sunglasses and the womens' expressions have changed. Very clever.

Video: There were some color bleeds and skips at the beginning of the DVD. After a tracking adjustment, the picture was fine.

Sound: The sound itself was fine, blended and balanced well. The soundtrack, however, left a lot to be desired. Edward Shearmur's upbeat guitar licks sounded like elevator music. Since Bill was of age to attend high school in the 1980s, stadium rock or classic rap would have added a nostalgic kick, and underscored the theme of reliving his lost youth.

Extras: Audio features include English Stereo and English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. Subtitles are in English and Spanish. The only other special features are Deleted Scenes and Trailers.

The makers of "Meet Bill" cut a few scenes that were quite funny, and should have been left in. One involved Dana (Julia Pace Mitchell), a black female employee, and the other featured Donald Choo (Andy Zou), the Asian male teen, finally standing up for himself.

In Conclusion: "Meet Bill" is a funny film that lives up to its logline--"A Comedy about Someone you Know. It's easy to identify with Bill's frustrations and laugh along with him.

FILM GRADE: B

DISC AND PACKAGING: B

OVERALL GRADE: B
About the Author
Elena Stevenson is a critic for IndieFilmChat.com. IndieFilmChat.com-Film Reviews
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