Aardvark, the first feature from writer-director Brian Shoaf, is so inane that several times it put this critic into a fugue state. Meandering in message or plot, the film proves to be not just incoherent but excruciatingly boring, quite a feat with a cast that includes Jenny Slate, Jon Hamm, Sheila Vand, and, sure, Zachary Quinto. Quinto plays Josh Norman, looking like he’s been frozen in time circa the mid-Aughts emo era (his dark bangs stick like paste to his forehead, a supplement to Quinto’s intrinsic angst). Josh, who had been diagnosed with an unnamed mental disorder when he was younger, seeks a social worker named Emily (Slate) to help him work through his issues. Those seem to stem from his relationship with his estranged brother, Craig (Hamm), a TV actor on a show called South Street Law, apparently in its twelfth season. Josh also suffers from hallucinations, and the strangers we see him cross paths with, including a young woman of romantic interest (Vand), are possibly imaginary.
So while Josh is suffering from a serious fraternal complex, Emily makes the irresponsible decision of sleeping with Craig. Not only does this reduce Slate’s social worker to the level of complete unprofessional, but Shoaf annoyingly signifies her incompetence in romantic relationships via an awkward run-in with an ex early on. Even the scene where Emily and Craig first meet feels forced, lacking any natural lead-up. We also learn the “aardvark” in the title — the literal animal appears in its opening scene — is tied to Josh’s childhood trauma, and it becomes unclear what Shoaf is trying to say about mental illness.
Written and directed by Brian Shoaf
Great Point Media
Opens April 13, Landmark 57 and Village East Theater
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