The premise for The Dilemma is instantly relatable. You, a beloved friend and love one, knows something about a friend’s relationship you should not, and you’re stuck between and rock and a hard place. Do you tell the truth about your knowledge, and risk a case of “killed messenger,” or do you waffle about and avoid conflict, while the longer you wait the more damage happens? It occured in season two of the Jersey Shore (curse you Sammi!), and it’s the primary focus of The Dilemma.
Ronny and Nick (Vince Vaughn and Kevin James respectively) are best friends and the minds behind a company that makes electric cars sound like muscle cars. They’ve got a lot going, with pressure from Dodge to finish the prototype for this weird device, which is taking a particularly hard toll on Nick. Thankfully, each has a wonderful woman in their life, with Ronny’s sweet girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Connelly) enjoying their time together, and Nick and his wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) apparently happy, too.
Of course, that’s where the major conflict begins. In planing his proposal to Beth, Ronny catches Geneva making out with a doofus named Zip (Channing Tatum). All is not well for Nick and Geneva, and the titular dilemma is how Ronny is going to tell his friend. It’s a typical Vince Vaughn film, so there is lots of physical comedy and gags, and director Ron Howard seems to at least try to make the film address this issue in a funny way.
Unfortunately, there could be both a dark and a light way of conveying this problem, and that’s the big issue with The Dilemma. With two friendly leads of James and Vaughn, you’d think this would be a light comedy dealing with this problem. Unfortunately, it’s bogged down with some dark humor and plot development, and it’s neither light enough to be wholly entertaining, and it’s not dark enough to really go for the “dark comedy” route. Instead it’s icky, which is a bummer, considering the cast.
Vaughn and James are both great to watch in other films, but here they’re just irritating for the whole movie. Jennifer Connelly as Ronny’s girlfriend is a sweet, if forgettable performance (seriously, Connelly just has to stand there and I’d normally love her performances, but Beth is such a boring character). Winona Ryder, as Nick’s cheating wife Geneva, is a great vindictive bitch, but the movie isn’t smart enough to paint her as anything other than a villain.
But you know what my biggest problem with The Dilemma is? It’s the fact that it follows the same miscommunication conundrum of every other crappy comedy out there. Instead of talking and communicating like normal real people do, the characters of The Dilemma can’t have a conversation without hiding something. It’s all designed to build tension and stress (eased by some physical comedy), but it’s one of those stories instantly solvable. If Ronny just mans up and tells Nick, or hell, just tells his girlfriend, he could solve a lot of these problems. Instead, he has to run around and stalk Geneva, get in fights with Zip, fall upon poison plants, and other stupid things. All you can do is roll your eyes about how stupid these people are.
Plus, I have some serious problems with how sexist the film actually is. Geneva isn’t a great person for cheating, and it’s revealed early on that Nick isn’t a great person either. While the movie starts out by indicating that nothing is ever cut and dry, the fact of the matter is the movie ends with Nick the victim and Geneva the bad guy. It’s wrong and unfair.
In the end, I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth. The movie isn’t very fun, it isn’t very funny, and the plot is inconsistent at best. From director to cast, it’s wasted talent funneled into something not worth anyone’s time. The dilemma here is whether or not you’d want to risk seeing this movie. I’d say not.