Mark Reviews Movies

The Layover


1.5 Stars (out of 4)

Director: William H. Macy

Cast: Alexandra Daddario, Kate Upton, Matt Barr, Matt Jones, Kal Penn, Rob Corddry, Molly Shannon

MPAA Rating: R (for language throughout, sexual content and some drug material)

Running Time: 1:28

Release Date: 9/1/17 (limited)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | August 31, 2017

It takes a while, but in the end, The Layover is at least slightly critical of its central male character. The movie, though, really doesn't like a single one of its female characters. In fact, it presents a woman as the ultimate form of punishment for a guy who has it coming. It's not that said woman does something to him. It's that this woman exists and is a major part of his life that's seen as the punishment. This is, to put it kindly, a bit messed up, especially in a movie that's ostensibly about two women learning to accept and better themselves, as well as each other.

The movie's sympathies only extend so far, and even then, that's being generous. It assumes that the screenplay by David Hornsby and Lance Krall has any sympathy for Kate (Alexandra Daddario) and Meg (Kate Upton), two best friends who take an impromptu vacation to Fort Lauderdale after some professional failures, only to find themselves stuck in St. Louis on account of a major hurricane, because neither of them pays any attention to the news.

The joke, of course, is that they're both either too dense and/or too self-involved to know about the storm, but the internal logic of even that joke is faulty. After all, there's an entire airplane filled with people taking the same trip, and let's not forget that the airline itself has gone ahead with the flight, despite the severe weather. To point these things out, though, would be to suggest that maybe Hornsby and Krall aren't as superior to their protagonists as they clearly believe they are.

That's the weirdest part of this movie: We find ourselves kind of rooting for Kate and Meg, who are dense and self-involved and often annoying, simply because the screenplay barely hides its obvious contempt for them. You may not want to like these characters, but if the people who wrote this movie don't like them, maybe that's a point in the characters' favor.

Kate's an English teacher whose job is up in the air. Meg wants to get rich selling beauty products to a major company, but she neglected to remove a sticker stating that the stuff came from North Korea. Dejected but thinking the two have earned a vacation, Meg arranges last-minute plane tickets for Florida, uses her feminine wiles (i.e., pulling her underwear out of her suitcase in front of the ticket agent) to get to the front of the line, and downs an entire bottle of soda to get through security. The last detail is important, because she spends the flight belching burps that apparently smell like death (Ha ha?).

The women's seatmate is Ryan (Matt Barr), a blond, shaggy-haired firefighter to whom both Kate and Meg are instantly attracted. Aping the competitive nature of the reality shows they watch, the women spend the layover in St. Louis aggressively flirting with, making fools of themselves in front of, and basically stalking Ryan. The joke is that they're obnoxious and slightly terrible, although Meg pushes the "slightly" part quite a bit, such as when she locks Kate in a feces-laden bathroom and puts a bunch of anti-anxiety pills in a bottle of wine to drug her best friend (Someone driving a car drinks the concoction instead, which opens up an entirely different conversation about her already-questionable moral character when she doesn't tell him).

At least Kate is relatively sane, and it helps that Daddario is actually giving a comedic performance here, as fruitless an endeavor as that may be with material like this, which has her character having a panic attack on a hot air balloon, falling into a toilet, and wearing a makeshift bikini that leaves little to the imagination. Upton isn't a particularly good actress, although she has her charms playing a charmless role. Barr is a bland romantic interest, making us question the enthusiasm with which these character pursue him. The one consistent performance belongs to Matt Jones, who plays a guy who's attracted to Meg. The character is basically the stereotypical "nice guy," whom Hornsby, Krall, and director William H. Macy apparently believe is sincere, despite the character's own passive-aggressive tactics. He appears decent only by comparison to rest of the characters.

Needless to say, the movie isn't funny, either because the gags are too obvious, unfulfilled, or mean-spirited. At the last minute, The Layover tries to become about female empowerment, but it would have to actually like women for that to work. Here's some unsolicited advice: A good starting place might be not turning a woman's mere existence into a punishment for a guy.

Copyright 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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