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Meet Bill (2007)

First Look Studios
DVD Released: 7/15/2008

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/14/2008

Ah, the mid-life crisis film. This genre has been around for years, and it really came into prominence in the late 70s and early 80s, when it seems that every movie dealt with a character (usually a man) going through a mid-life crisis. (Heck, even National Lampoon's Vacation can be read as a mid-life crisis movie.) (And for a while there, it seemed like Burt Reynolds was starring in all of these films.) The genre may not be as obvious as it once was, but a quick glance at recent movies like American Beauty, The Weatherman, and Wonderboys show that the genre still exists. And yet, it's been a while that there's been a mid-life crisis film as overt as Meet Bill.

Aaron Eckhart stars in Meet Bill as the titular character. Bill is married to Jess (Elizabeth Banks) and he works for her father, John Jacoby (Holmes Osborne), and brother, John Jr. (Todd Louiso), as the executive vice president of human resources. Bill is often bored at his job. When the local prep school, to which Jacoby is a benefactor, creates a mentor program, Bill "volunteers" and is given a student (Logan Lerman) with which to work. This kid is a slick operator who likes to break the rules and pay people to do things for him. At this same time, Bill catches Jess cheating on him with a local TV news reporters, Chip Johnson (Timothy Olyphant). With his marriage crumbling around him and his job boring him to death, Bill decides to pursue his dream of buying a donut franchise. He also begins to take better care of himself, by exercising and changing his diet. Is it possible for a lost soul like Bill to better himself?

Perhaps you're like me and you're looking at the cast of Meet Bill, which also includes small roles from Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudekis, and an uncredited Craig Bierko, and you're thinking, "Why haven't I heard of this movie?" Well, as usual in situations like this, there's a good reason.

As one can ascertain from the above synopsis, Meet Bill is about a man who has reached a cross-roads in his life, and while he thinks he knows what he wants, he's not sure how to get it. The entire film mirrors this frenetic way of thinking, as it's all over the place. The story has bitten off more than it can chew, and it can't decide if it wants to be solely about Bill, or focus on the many subplots strewn about the movie, such as Bill's gay brother or the fact that the kid has a crush on a lingerie store clerk (Jessica Alba). This scatterbrained approach isn't helped by the editing, as the movie simply jumps from one scene to another, or sometimes cuts between two diverse scenes, never allowing the story to have any sort of flow. And while this may imply that the movie moves along too quickly, actually the opposite is true, as the 95 minute running time crawls by.

The movie also takes its "slice of life" approach too seriously, as we get very little backstory here. How did Bill and Jess meet? Were they ever happy? Did Bill have any other aspirations before he went to work at the bank? Who is this kid? More importantly, how old is he? The one thing that we do know about Bill is that he was handy a cushy job and he complains about it. Given the present economy, this may not be the best message for a film to have. The movie hits the ground running and we are forced to catch up. It's ironic that the movie is entitled Meet Bill when I feel that we never get to know Bill.

Perhaps that's a good thing, as there are no likable characters in the movie. Bill is the ultimate sad-sack who seems to be a loser at everything. Do we want him to get back with Jess after she cheats? Do we care? Jess comes across as cold and status seeking. John Jr. and The Kid are both annoying jerks. Oddly, it's Jacoby, who is viewed as a sort of villain throughout the film, who comes off as admirable in the end.

Meet Bill is yet another example of a film which is a missed opportunity, and I'm not simply referring to the cast. Aaron Eckhart has made a career of playing cocky guys, so it was interesting to see him taken on the role of someone who is defeated. And the film implies that poor old Bill is going to pull himself up by his bootstraps and make something of his life. But, somewhere along the way, the movie hits some snags, and Bill goes through many ups and downs. I realize that every movie can't everything to everyone, but I can't imagine many people being satisfied by Meet Bill and the vague ending doesn't help. Again, the cast is great and there are one or two funny moments (the best involving Timothy Olyphant's hair care), but Meet Bill ultimately feels incomplete -- as if it were put together with the footage which was available -- and no one in the film, even Bill, seems like anyone that we'd like to meet.

Meet Bill introduces itself to DVD courtesy of First Look Studios. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image here is fairly sharp and clear, as it shows only a hint of grain. However, there is some dirt (?) on the image at times. Some shots really lack in detail and border on being fuzzy. However, there is no distracting video noise in these scenes. The colors are good and the image is never overly bright. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. For a dramedy, the sound is excellent, as the track offers some very nice surround sound effects. Musical cues, street sounds, and most notably, a scene with fireworks, really bring the rear channels to life. The stereo effects are solid as well, as they help to emphasize the movement of on-screen action.

The Meet Bill DVD contains only one extra features. The disc contains ten DELETED SCENES, which run about 14 minutes. Many of these are simply extended versions of scenes from the finished film, and the only interesting entries here are three scenes showing Bill actually attempting to do his job.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long