Brief Interviews with Hideous Men is a film written and directed by actor John Krasinski and based on a book of short stories by the late David Foster Wallace. I admire Krasinski's ambition with this project because I've read some of Wallace's work, and I can't imagine that any of it would be easily adapted to film. Wallace often seemed to be show-offy in his work, as if to say "see what great literary heights I can hit". He would then go off on literary tangents or get cute with footnotes; I always felt that Wallace thought himself too clever for mere mortal readers. In my eyes, his work was gimmicky. And that is what Krasinski has created -- a gimmicky, meandering film that wants to be taken seriously but is too sophomoric and mean-spirited to elicit goodwill from the viewer.
The story is about Sara, a graduate students played by Julianne Nicholson. Sara is working on a thesis project to interview men to find out why they mistreat women. In between many monologues of her subjects -- some of whom are in her academic and social circles -- we learn that Sara has been unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend for no apparent reason. Krasinski plays her ex-boyfriend who, in a scene late in the film, comes to tell Sara exactly why he cheated on her. Timothy Hutton plays Sara's professor. Other actors who play Sara's interviewees include Will Forte, Will Arnett, Josh Charles, Joey Slotnick, Ben Shenkman, Max Minghella, Frankie Faison, Clarke Peters, Christopher Meloni, Bobby Cannavale, Dominic Cooper, and Denis O'Hare. The actors are all adequate playing self-absorbed insufferable, unlikable bores. Most of them give performances like they are on stage.
Then there is a central problem with Nicholson. Her character Sara acts vapid and is completely devoid of personality. I could certainly understand why her boyfriend dumped her and it had nothing to do with the reasons he stated -- she would have just been too annoying to be around.
If Krasinski's intent was to create a film version that mimics the writing of David Foster Wallace, then he succeeded. In addition to Wallace's aforementioned writerly tricks, Wallace's stories are full of annoying people caught up in uninteresting situations. The film seemed interminable at only 80 minutes. I have to wonder who the intended audience is. The best thing about the movie is its title. Grade: D-.
I watched Brief Interviews with Hideous Men on Netflix Streaming on January 24, 2013.