Updated: Thursday, February 8, 2018, 12:14 PM
Thomas Middleditch’s character is described in Entanglement as a “sad cartoon carrot,” which strikes me as a line written after the actor (better known for HBO’s Silicon Valley) was cast.
As a physical description, it’s apt. The soft-spoken Middleditch has eyes that run downhill, an effect accentuated by his long face — he doesn’t smile a lot, and yet has found his sweet spot in offbeat comedy (and Verizon commercials).
All of this meshes with his role in Entanglement as Ben, a man suffering from severe depression made worse by his recent divorce. In the opening scenes, he’s trying (incompetently) to kill himself, which the movie plays for bleak laughs, a “sad cartoon” tone the movie manages to sustain for its modest running time.
His life is saved by chance. Or there is something else at work? After he recovers, there’s an apparently random meeting with a young woman named Hanna (Jess Weixler) at a pharmacy (he’s loading up on antidepressants) that leads to a friendship, then more.
He’s morose and stuck, she’s the kooky sprite who lifts his spirits and restores his interest in life — an arc that traces familiar (some would say tired) movie formula. Except that Jason Filiatrault’s screenplay story throws some curves, and anticipates criticism that characters like Hanna are … unrealistic.
Also Weixler enjoys the role. Ten years ago, she won the best actress award at the Sundance Film Festival for the horror movie Teeth, and has been bouncing around independent film and episodic television (The Good Wife) ever since. Entanglement gives her room to work.
Also good is Diana Bang (The Interview) as Ben’s nosy neighbor Tabby, who pops up uninvited to clean his messy apartment, and has larger ambitions to clean up his messy life. For that reason, she keeps a wary eye on the reckless Hanna.
There is a shaggy dog plot about Ben’s search for a woman who came within a whisker of being his adopted sister, but the real inquiry here is into something metaphysical — the title refers to apparently random events that are influenced by the same forces that guide particles and planets. It’s all fused with Ben’s story of breakdown, recovery, and human connection.
To that end, the movie is often whimsical, a tone augmented by clever use of special effects and sudden flourishes of animation. Offbeat soundtrack selections and effective music by composer Andrew Harris help set the mood — ultimately genial and hopeful, and the movie is short and sweet.
MOVIES Entanglement Directed by Jason James. With Thomas Middleditch, Jess Weixler, Diana Bang, Johannah Newmarch, and Nicole LaPlaca. Distributed by Dark Star Pictures. Running time: 1 hour, 25 mins. Parent's guide: Not rated Playing at: PFS Roxy Theater