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The Answer Man (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

The Answer Man

The Answer Man


Starring Jeff Daniels, Lauren Graham, Lou Taylor Pucci, Olivia Thurlby, Kat Jennings, Max Antisell, Annie Corley, Thomas Roy, Tony Hale, Richard Barlow, Nora Dunn  and Steven Pasquale.

Screenplay by John Hindman.

Directed by John Hindman.

Distributed by Magnolia Pictures.  95 minutes.   Rated R.

The Answer Man is far from a perfect film, but what can I say?  I liked it.

Sometimes it’s that simple.  You can overlook plot contrivances and occasional clichés if a movie hits you the right way.  This one did.

Many critics are pointing out that The Answer Man has a lot in common with James L. Brooks’ As Good As It Gets – and it is a legitimate point.  However, it’s not the first time that a somewhat similar storyline has been repeated.  Also, maybe the fact that I was never a huge fan of As Good As It Gets allows me to give the new movie some slack.  Also, frankly, it is a bit like Wonder Boys.

Whatever.  I’ll be the first to acknowledge that The Answer Man is flawed and say it still works.

The Answer Man is the story of Arlen Faber, an author who is famed for writing a book called Me and God – which seems to be a long Q&A with the almighty himself.

Twenty years on, Me and God has become a cottage industry and made Faber fabulously wealthy – and yet he has been completely unable to follow it up as a writer.

Not only that, twenty years of people assuming that he has a hotline to heaven has made him mean and standoffish.  If at all possible, he does not leave his gorgeous Olde City Philadelphia brownstone.

Faber’s life is stuck in a huge rut until he meets two younger people.  One is Kris, a recovering alcoholic who has issues with his dad and is running a used book store which is all too close to going out of business.  (These scenes are filmed in The Book Trader, a wonderful old Second Street shop.)

He also meets Elizabeth, a fortyish chiropractor who sets up shop on Walnut Street, whom Arlen meets not-so-cute when his back gives out and he has to crawl into her practice.  The fact that she is able to help his back pain when no one else has been able to makes him like her right away and that like quickly turns romantic.

For the first time in years, Faber is proud of what he has written and uses his celebrity to woo her.  In fact, she seems to be the only person in the world who is able to bring civility out in him.  She finds him deeper than he may really be, quirky and nice to her seven-year-old son, so she falls too.

Do I really believe that this cute younger chiropractor would fall for this sometimes crotchety, often emotionally-cut-off older man?  Probably not, but like I said early, sometimes when a film hits you right, you will give it some slack.

And, honestly, you may have to give The Answer Man some slack.  It’s a flawed movie, but it is a somewhat lovable one.

On a side note, as a life-long Philadelphian, I have to say that that The Answer Man makes my hometown look terrific.  If you know the city even a little bit, this movie is worth seeing for that reason alone.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved. Posted: September 4, 2009.


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