Evan Rachel Wood is compelling as Birdie, so compelling that she single handedly vitalizes A Case of You, a movie that is forgettably average anyway.
Sense of humor is the film’s strength. Peter Dinklage is often funny playing a stereotype, Gerard, to exaggerated extreme. Many of Sam’s (Justin Long) failures are laugh out funny, and so are some of Sam Rockwell’s (Gary) scenes.
Writers Christian and Justin Long’s dialogue is witty and immersive.
Director Kat Coiro constructs A Case of You well, hitting the proper narrative beats, and timing cutaways and reaction shots well. Even better, she wisely underplays each of the film’s assorted cameos, using costumes, hairstyles and subdued camera placements to take the focus off of the actor and keep it on the story. Nowhere is Coiro’s restraint more evident than when she introduces Tony (Brendan Fraser).
Yet, none of the picture’s other merits compare to Evan Rachel Wood. She steals A Case of You from its ostensible star and writer, Justin Long, at least partially because Birdie is not well-developed. Other than being frequently late, the character is too perfect, too wonderful, too amazing. More troublingly, the script doesn’t hint at Birdie’s awareness of Sam’s gambit, which means the climax should fall flat.
It doesn’t. Because of the actor, who adds complexity to the character, and also ensures we recognize her intelligence.
In fact, Wood is so good that every other actor, especially Long, pales in comparison. It’s not that Justin Long’s performance is bad, per se; it’s that Wood’s is much better, and the two are therefore mismatched, a flaw from which A Case of You cannot quite recover.
Early in the movie, Sam writes about an avalanche of cliches, a moment that is played for laughter, but also proves ironic, because A Case of You is weighed down by that very flaw. Male protagonist misunderstanding his relationship’s emotional significance? Check. Male protagonist making obviously stupid mistakes? Check. Male protagonist running through the streets in hopes of rectifying his misbehavior? Check. A dance sequence? Check. And more? Check that, too.
In other words, this film is never original.
A fact that mightn’t matter if the characters were better developed. But Eliot (Kier O’Donnel) has one note, which is overplayed and not nearly as funny as it’s meant to be. Ashley’s (Busy Phillips) only purpose is to deliver truisms as obvious as ‘relationships are about compromise,’ and Sam’s infantilism is so extreme as to be borderline unbelievable.
None of which is to suggest A Case of You fails. Much of it is funny and entertaining; it just isn’t memorable.