'Aardvark’ is a sporadically interesting but ultimately dull drama
“Aardvark” tells the story of Josh Norman (Zachary Quinto), as he starts to see his therapist Emily (Jenny Slate) again after finding out his brother, Craig (Jon Hamm) is back in town for the first time in 16 years. Josh starts to reveal to Emily that he’s seen his brother on many occasions, masquerading as different people in his life. What Josh doesn’t know is that Emily is dating his brother.
The film teases some interesting insights about how we deal with loneliness and how everyone perceives and remembers shared experiences differently. Josh is clearly missing his brother, Craig, and has been dealt the worst hand of his life: living alone in a cramped apartment, without anyone to take care of him. His parents died when he was young, and he never had anyone but his brother to turn to. He hallucinates seeing his brother as different people in his life, such as a homeless person, or a police officer. Josh believes that his brother, who is a successful actor, is coming to him to display his greatest acting performance yet.
Craig on the other hand, felt like he needed to escape town and his family. Part of him blames himself for Josh’s situation, which kept him from seeing his brother. Emily shares some of the loneliness that both brothers have, and is trying to understand and find out ways to better it, not only for them but for herself.
That being said, the film never really digs deep, instead it hovers on the surface of these issues. Perhaps it was attempting to bring together three different characters and give insight into each of them, but unfortunately most of these insights are half-baked.
This is more disconcerting when it comes to the treatment of Josh’s mental health. It seems the film is almost struggling to identify with his character and handles his problems in an overly-simplistic way. This seems almost gimmicky, and ultimately weakens the film’s overall messages. This is surprising as it is the beating heart of the film. The movie has some tonal imbalances as well, unable to juggle the dramatic aspects with Josh’s increasingly worrisome hallucinations.
It comes across as if Brian Shoaf, who wrote and directed the film, didn’t necessarily know what to focus on. The film starts off with some original ideas but soon the viewer realizes that they haven’t received any new insights, and it begins to meander. This is a shame as the performances by the cast are powerful, and offer some much needed weight, but unfortunately not enough to bolster this disappointing film.
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