The Book of Love, 2016.
Directed by Bill Purple.
Starring Jason Sudeikis, Maisie Williams, Orlando Jones, Paul Reiser, Mary Steenburgen, and Jessica Biel.
Henry is an introverted architect. After the death of his wife in a car accident, he sets out to help Millie, a homeless teen, to build a raft to sail across the Atlantic.
For a movie titled The Book of Love, there isn’t much to do with a book of love. What audiences largely get instead is even worse; a nonsensical saccharine mess involving a recent widow (Jason Sudeikis) forming a bond with a stray New Orleans-accented teenage girl (Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones) that wishes to follow in her father’s footsteps and sail out on adventure, using a makeshift raft. The obvious metaphor here is that they are both escaping their troubles and horrible reality. It’ll also no doubt result in death, making it impossible to actually side with Henry (Sudeikis) going along with the building of the raft and the journey itself. Shouldn’t he be the responsible adult simply trying to give this homeless girl a better life? At one point he even admits to his mental health counselor that it’s all crazy, who then basically does nothing to put the craziness to rest. That’s one grade A counselor…
Absolutely absurd plot aside, first-time director Bill Purple’s execution of The Book of Love is an unmitigated disaster. Why do we need to hear Millie (Maisie Williams) speak ghetto with a New Orleans drawl that sounds completely forced, unnatural, still British, and unable to take seriously, when literally no other character in the movie has a voice that would even remotely hint at them being from Louisiana? It’s like the filmmakers made up a dartboard filled with accents, threw one and struck New Orleans, then gave it to Maisie hoping that it would give her character some likability or life.
Then there’s the humor, which is completely terrible in a cringe-worthy way. Sudeikis is a funny guy, but this movie might have the worst “getting high for the first time”comedic scene in recent memory. There is also a supporting character literally named Dumbass, and when we find out why he is named that almost an hour into the movie, the answer is just as stupid as one would expect. Forget I was ever f***** curious. The worst part is that the movie is totally unaware of how not funny these scenes are; everything is played completely straight-faced.
Honestly, Sudeikis is something fiercely awful in this movie all-around (which actually pains me to say because he did have quite a decent dramatic turn in Race last year), making the most unsympathetic, unbelievable, unintentionally hilarious grieving faces for his recently deceased wife. Maybe his attempts to bond with the girl would be more empathetic and interesting if the script didn’t have him behaving like an idiot doing things like setting accidental fire to a little shack that she resides in. Although, this scene does have my favorite moment in The Book of Love, which is Henry lighting a candle to read from the titular book, only to read one page which magically transitions real world time from afternoon to the dead of night. Hey, at least the movie has one funny part…
There is also a supporting character worth mentioning that is meant to be the caretaker of Millie (Maisie Williams) who is an unbelievably over-the-top bad guy that is not above smacking her across the face, generally treating her like crap, and coming across like a complete cartoon. Such a character should make viewers actually sympathize with her traumatic situation, but here it is the definition of eye rolling. His presence during the ending is made even all the more baffling. He’s a one-note paper thin ass if there ever was one.
On top of everything else, The Book of Love is an utter bore. No one will care whether Henry gets over the emotional loss of losing his wife or not, or if Millie gets to explore the sea, because within the first 15 minutes or so it is beyond clear that the production of this movie was a disaster from the beginning. Even the death of Henry’s wife looks absolutely silly, making the proceeding attempts at emotion even less empathetic in the process. The scariest part is that this script apparently went through over 20 rewrites. Someone, anyone, should have found the book/script and burned it before it could have ever materialized into a movie.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★