Better Living through Chemistry

Movie Review #955


Nationwide release on March 14, 2014. Comedy/Drama. This film is not rated. Runs 91 minutes. An American-British co-production. Written and directed by Geoff Moore & David Posamentier. Cast: Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, Michelle Monaghan, Jane Fonda, and Ray Liotta.


By Alexander Diminiano

“Better Living through Chemistry” is as original as the phrase itself. It originated as a slogan for DuPont in the 1930’s. The full slogan was actually, “Better things for better living…through chemistry.” But people caught onto the ease of marketing that phrase as their own, simply by modifying it to “better living through chemistry” because only the full slogan had been trademarked. Likewise, the movie of the same name is doing nothing new. Maybe I hadn’t watched the movie with this exact title or cast or crew before, but I swear I’ve seen it before in at least one (and probably a couple more than that) permutations. At the base of things, it’s just one drip in the nouvelle vague américaine of quirky indie comedy.

The cast is what makes the movie fairly pleasant. Sam Rockwell is actually rather memorable here, and Michelle Monaghan and Olivia Wilde only add to the fun. These three help transcend spots of forced dialogue and turgid direction. While on paper Rockwell and Wilde would most likely be one of the most unconvincing couples I’ve ever witnessed in a movie, the two of them make it work a little nicer, even if the results are still half a lightyear from perfect.

David Posamentier and Geoff Moore–the duo that both penned and filmed “Better Living”–seem bored with the movie, and therein lies the largest problem of all. This is a story about a pharmacist who’s bored with his life, and then when he stops playing by all the rules, he finds happiness. First it’s an affair with someone else’s trophy wife. Then it’s taking prescription drugs whenever he’s not on the clock. Then it’s, quite possibly, a murder plot. All of this is played with free-spirited but lightweight comedy. There’s no wrong way in filmmaking, but I’ll offer the better way. This is a plot where both writers-directors should have let loose. This could’ve been a wild, crazy mess of murder, pills, and sex. Instead, it’s a straightforward mess of those things. Sure, the movie’s pleasant, but it’s also rather uninteresting. Curiously, we end the movie where the protagonist had begun it, and that is in a state of boredom.