Go and Charlie’s Angels screenwriter John August wrote and directed this solipsistic, sub–Charlie Kaufman head-trip about a washed-up cop-show actor confined to house arrest, a gay TV writer battling the network over his latest pilot, and a successful video-game designer whose family holiday turns sinister after his car breaks down in the woods. The catch is that the characters (all played by Ryan Reynolds) are versions—or fragments—of the same person, and as the successive storylines play out, it’s clear that August is trying to show us the inner workings of a writer’s mind. It’s hardly a novel idea, but at least when Kaufman, David Lynch, or Michel Gondry invites us on a tour of his chaotic subconscious, it’s a fascinating place to visit. Plunging into August’s gray matter is more like a season in vacation hell. The film’s first section, in which Reynolds’s vain sex symbol hooks up with his married neighbor (Hope Davis), plays like outtakes from a low-rent porno; the middle section suggests a wan retread of
The TV Set; and the grand finale—which we understand to be the troubled pilot itself—quickly qualifies as must-not-see TV. Each time around, Reynolds is haunted in some way by the titular numeral, a feeling likely to be shared by anyone who spends about that many dollars on a ticket.