When I first saw commercials for the The Dilemma, starring Vince Vaughn (Couples Retreat) and Kevin James (Grown Ups), I didn’t have high expectations. I expected the sophomoric humor that usually characterizes these actors’ respective film choices. What I got instead was a very funny, surprisingly thoughtful movie about friendship and loyalty.
Vaughn stars as Ronny Valentine, an ambitious small business owner with a loving girlfriend and a seemingly great life. Ronny’s best friend Nick (James) is also his business partner, and the two have an exciting new opportunity with Chrysler to design an energy efficient muscle car. Ronny and Nick’s significant others Beth and Geneva, played by Jennifer Connelly (He’s Just Not That Into You) and Winona Ryder (Black Swan) also get along well, and the two couples seem to be madly in love. Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Connelly had a wonderful chemistry together, so much so that I actually felt lonely watching them on screen. That’s how happy they seemed! Anyway, things get interesting when Ronny decides he wants to propose to Beth and begins scouting locations. While checking out some botanical gardens, he spies Geneva with another man (Channing Tatum, Dear John). Ronny and Nick are in the midst of the deal of a lifetime with Chrysler, and any distraction would jeopardize their lucrative opportunity. Furthermore, Ronny wants to marry Beth, and it’s crucial that the deal go through. Nick is already high strung and very nervous about being able to hold up his end, and if his marriage crumbles his mind most certainly won’t be on his work. When Ronny cautiously tells Nick that he has something he’d like to discuss with him, he flips out. He tells Ronny that they don’t have time to discuss anything personal with the deal on the line. Here is the dilemma in question. Should Ronny tell his best friend that his wife is cheating on him, even though they are in the midst of a business deal that would change their lives? Or should he wait until they close the deal to break the news? Ronny complicates matters further when he confrontsGeneva and she admits to the affair but promises to end it and to tell Nick the truth after they close the deal. Can he trust her to keep her word, or is he being a terrible friend? Feeling hampered by the circumstances, Ronny does his best to protect his friend without spilling the beans. When he finds out thatGeneva hasn’t ended the affair, he tries to get evidence to use against her, butGeneva is holding a trump card of her own.
The Dilemma was a pleasant surprise. It wasn’t all slapstick and cheap laughs. Vince Vaughn and Kevin James are hilarious, but the movie struck a good balance of humor and thoughtfulness. In one heartfelt scene, Ronny is at his wit’s end. Everything is crashing down around him. His relationship is suffering, because he’s had to lie to Beth because he didn’t want to tell her about Geneva’s cheating without telling Nick. The Chrysler deal is in jeopardy, and most importantly his friendship is in trouble. When he finally tells Nick, will he be angry that Ronny didn’t tell him sooner? If he waits for Geneva to come clean, will Nick be angry that Ronny knew and didn’t say anything? Ronny begins talking out loud to God, saying that if God is teaching him a lesson, he doesn’t want to learn it. He doesn’t want to lose his best friend. It was a touching scene that struck a chord with me, and a poignant moment amidst all the laughs. I’m not saying The Dilemma is a classic or one of the funniest that Vince Vaughn has done. It’s not, at all. But director Ron Howard (Angels & Demons) is certainly no slouch, and his sure hand lends weight to the movie. I give it a solid B.
This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.