Movies · Reviews

Chaos Theory Movie Review

By  · Published on April 10th, 2008

[Editor’s Note: Before (or after, your choice) you read Cole’s glowing review of Chaos Theory, enter to win some awesome FREE Stuff! by clicking here!]

We want our movies to cover new ground. Going to see a movie that only achieves what others have done before is like seeing a rerun of a television show where your favorite characters have been replaced by strangers. It’s admittedly difficult to create something truly original – to connect to an audience in a new way – but Chaos Theory does this in leaps and bounds.

Frank Allen (Ryan Reynolds) is an efficient man. He lives his life by making to-do lists and completing them, checking off each moment as a task to finish and sharing his methods in corporate speaking events. One morning, his wife Susan (Emily Mortimer) sets the clocks so that he’s ten minutes behind schedule, and the shift creates a chain of events that drastically changes his career and his relationships with his wife, daughter (Matrya Fedor) and best friend Buddy (Stuart Townsend).

As with most good movies, a synopsis doesn’t do it justice. It seems on the surface as the classic tale of a stuffy guy who learns to let go and live life to the fullest, but Chaos Theory just isn’t as happy as all that. It isn’t a story of a man having a mid-life crisis while the audience laughs along at his antics. It is the story of a man who learns things specific to his life that the audience can be shocked by and that he can hopefully rise above. But even if things turn out alright, no one is going to be walking into the sunset at the end.

Chaos Theory shines by breathing new life into the classic story concept of a man frustrated by his life. It gives an equal spotlight to the sweet, humorous moments and decimating failings of true family life – displaying marital flirtation and fatherly love alongside hurt feelings and slamming doors. This is only made possible because the writing from screenwriter Daniel Taplitz is strong, and because Ryan Reynolds commands the scene whether he’s making you laugh or breaking down.

The acting is incredibly solid throughout. Emily Mortimer plays well as a loving, dynamic wife who has to swing between reactionary to active force in the ride that her husband is going through. Likewise, Stuart Townsend plays a nebulously likable best friend who flirts openly with Frank’s wife, but has his back when things get rough. Of course the lynch pin is Reynolds himself who is flawless the entire film.

Once again, this isn’t a movie about a man who gets bored with his job and his married life and buys a Harley. It’s a movie about a man who has to deal with real emotional issues that blindside him, creating a deep rift between him and his wife – so he buys a Harley. He also contemplates suicide, goes mostly insane and contemplates offing his best friend with a shotgun. Elements you won’t see in the typical light-hearted mid-life crisis affair. But even with those elements, Chaos Theory never gets that dark (the scene where he buys the shotgun is especially funny). Think Stranger Than Fiction without the gimmick. Think Liar Liar with more depth and less wacky.

Unfortunately, it is only playing in select cities, opening this weekend (April 11th), but if you’re anywhere near the cities listed below, I’d urge you to make the trip to see this movie. It’s definitely worth it.

The Upside: Ryan Reynolds seamlessly goes from neurotic to funny to desperate to elated to destructive and back again. His range is amazing to watch.

The Downside: There isn’t much wrong with it – a few lines that seem out of place maybe, but for the most part, the movie keeps you guessing and wallowing along with Frank.

On the Side: Fanboys will enjoy that director Marcos Siega has directed episodes of “Veronica Mars” and “Dexter”.

Chaos Theory opens in Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Toronto, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, DC, Seattle and Dallas.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.