TIFF Journal: ‘Peep World’ – Great Cast with Little to Do

The Toronto International Film Festival ended on Sunday. By the time you read this, I will have already left the city. I still have several movies to write about, however. So I’ll roll those out over a few extra posts. First, let’s take a peek at ‘Peep World’. Just listen to this cast: Michael C. Hall, Rainn Wilson, Sarah Silverman, Judy Greer, Taraji P. Henson, Stephen Tobolowsky, Kate Mara, Alicia Witt, Ron Rifkin, and Lesley Ann Warren. What a line-up, right? It’s a shame they’re all stuck in such a middling comedy.

Hall, Wilson, and Silverman play the dysfunctional adult children of a wealthy real estate magnate (Rifkin). Hall is the responsible son who followed in his father’s footsteps, but can’t keep his business afloat. Silverman is the emotionally needy daughter who aspires to be an actress despite having no talent at it. Wilson is the screw-up with no direction in his life who can’t hold a job. They all crave daddy’s approval but will never earn it, because daddy is basically a selfish prick. Their dysfunctionality becomes even more dysfunctional when the youngest sibling (Ben Schwartz) writes a thinly-fictionalized novel (in the vein of ‘Ordinary People’ or ‘American Beauty‘) exposing everyone’s deepest, darkest secrets. Of course, the book becomes a massive bestseller with a movie adaptation in the works. This can only mean that plenty of resentment will be stirred up when everyone assembles for daddy’s 70th birthday party.

Most of the performances here are very good. Rainn Wilson is especially noteworthy for underplaying his role in ways very different from his usual screen persona. He manages to bring a bit of genuine pathos to a loser character that could have easily been broadly exaggerated.

Unfortunately, the movie’s script is very fomulaic, the direction bland, and the laughs mild. Director Barry Blaustein seems to be aiming for a tone of dramedy. But the story is too thin for the drama parts to work, and the antics aren’t zany enough for the comedy parts to work. Also, the movie is smothered in voiceover narration from comedian Lewis Black. I happen to like Black, but the narration here is pointless and annoying.

In the end, ‘Peep World’ is a pleasantly innocuous way to waste an hour and a half, but nothing anyone should go out of the way for. Wait for this to hit HBO.

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