Masculinity is reasserted and order restored in the Sam Rockwell and Olivia Wilde dramedy Better Living Through Chemistry, which could be subtitled “How Douglas Got His Dick Back.”
Writer-directors Geoff Moore and David Posamentier’s droll but unsatisfying film — about a henpecked suburban pharmacist (Rockwell) who learns to become a man again by sleeping with married Elizabeth (a blonde Wilde), a woman much hotter than his wife (Michelle Monaghan) — is the cinematic equivalent of a monthly capsule of Oxycontin: It might sound a little dangerous to some, but it’s about as safe as it gets.
Give Rockwell’s Doug credit for having the right instinct about his future married mistress: “I hate rich people.”
He and Elizabeth soon become lovers in white: He pulls happy pills from his pharmacist’s coat, while she gets high constantly but somehow still keeps her Sharon Stone-esque, all-ivory wardrobe pristine.
Soon they’re joking about knocking off Elizabeth’s banker husband by messing with his heart meds. Then they’re not joking anymore. Rockwell is a fantastic character actor, but he flails as the film’s anchor. His sweaty, overcaffeinated commitment to each scene is betrayed by the script’s careening tone — it goes from satirical to raunchy to cloyingly self-aware.
Doug’s search for an all-natural testosterone high never feels as triumphant or as affecting as it should, but the script boasts some amusing meanness of spirit.
And no scene tops the winking illustration of Doug and Elizabeth’s impromptu lust session at the pharmacy with a montage of chintzy, faux-ceramic figurines of blissful pigs enacting the Kama Sutra. Porking indeed.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 12, 2014