“Why wouldn’t I want to throw myself off of a tall building?”
I have a clear memory from grade school of the class clown two years above me threatening to jump out of a classroom window. The teacher was apparently hysterical, pleading for him to not do it. The thing is, he was on the ground level first floor. The kid wouldn’t have had more than a two foot drop. As does this movie. A Long Way Down, adapted from the Nick Hornby novel, has an intriguing concept but stumbles right out the gate, falling flat almost immediately. In a game of Chutes and Ladders, it’s all downhill.
Martin Sharp (Pierce Brosnan) is a middle-aged and disgraced TV host out of a job. His scandal with an underage girl has cost him his marriage, his fame, and labeled him as a pedophile. On a frosty New Year’s Eve night he treks to the top of a tall building to end his life. The guy is pretty disarming while he cooly puffs a cigar, clearly playing out his demise just as he had imagined it. Then, one by one, his suicide attempt is thwarted by three strangers intent on doing the same thing.
This a convenience store kind of movie. Everything happens way too neatly and easily for these supposedly complicated characters. However, it does an excellent job setting up each member of the “Topperhouse Four”, or so it’s called once the media hears the story. Maureen (Toni Collette) is a single mother with a disabled son who feels helpless. J.J. (Aaron Paul) says he has inoperable brain cancer, yet you have a sneaky suspicion that he’s not telling the whole truth. Jess (Imogen Poots) is love spurned by her pill addled ex but there’s clearly more to her story. And Martin, well, he endures constant humiliation for his terrible mistake. Somehow we’re supposed to believe this band of misfits actually cares about each other even though they don’t care about themselves. It makes no sense.
For such a below average film, it sports a tremendous cast. Collette and Brosnan are both steady as the more mature, but not wiser, adults of the group. Paul is good in turns. I am such a fan of his, but as I’ve gotten deeper into his filmography, you just feel like you’re watching shades of him as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad over and over. I’d love to see something that shows his range (I’ll be reviewing Hellion soon, which he supposedly excels in). Poots on the otherhand continues to prove she is a rising star as she easily tiptoes the fine line between drama and comedy. This is her movie. It’s only a matter of time before her charm and sheer talent takes the film industry by storm.
A great concept can’t thrive without fine execution. What ruins this film is the structure and the narrative. It’s told in equal portions from each protagonist’s “perspective,” but none of the chapters feel unique. It simply gives a brief voice over from a new character, then gets right back into the same story. The more serious problem is the absolute mockery this makes of suicide. Topics such as this can be so difficult to take on but nevertheless can still be done. This year’s Obvious Child, a movie about abortion, proves so. Want a good, thoughtful, and seriously funny movie about suicide? Try the ’06 film Wristcutters: A Love Story. I knew this would be bad, but not to such a drastic degree. A Long Way Down is an undramatic, unfunny, and insensitive take on a rising global issue. For being set in the UK, where suicide rates are skyrocketing, especially amongst men, it couldn’t be more off-putting.
“I don’t mind the pain. It’s the hope that kills me.”
Rating: 1 out of 5