Choppy, yet likable, tale of 3 mending each other

A version of this review appeared in March.

Arlen Faber (Jeff Daniels) was touched by God. He wrote about it in an inspirational best seller that touched readers around the world. That was 20 years ago. Since then, he has been a recluse in a Philadelphia townhouse, hiding from the world - and himself. The world knocks on Arlen's door but he does not answer.

The Answer Man, a diverting dramedy of human and spiritual connection, is set in the rosy light and full bud of a spring when the thorny Arlen gets coaxed outside and into bloom.

Written and directed by John Hindman (and retitled from The Dream of the Romans), the rookie feature costars the wistful Lauren Graham as a chiropractor who readjusts Arlen and the wiry Lou Taylor Pucci as a bookseller who consults Arlen for advice. Obviously indebted to James L. Brooks' As Good as It Gets, the film follows three broken spirits who help mend one another.

Though his film is a tad choppy and a lot chatty, Hindman elicits sympathetic performances from leads who demonstrate a deep understanding of movie physics. When the story grows heavy, they carry themselves with a lightness that leavens its gravity.

It's a film that is likable even when its characters decidedly are not. It doesn't hurt that Hindman sees Philadelphia through the same kind of lovestruck eyes through which Woody Allen regards Manhattan.


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey

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The Answer Man

Directed by John Hindman. With Garrett Ching, Annie Corley, Max Antisell, Lauren Graham, Robert Bizik, Richard Barlow, Chrismandu, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jeff Daniels, Anthony C. Brown. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures.

Running time: 1 hours, 35 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for language).