“Meet Bill” is a torturous viewing experience that’s downright baffling to even consider. Here’s a capable cast and a moody little plot, and yet there’s absolutely no reason to watch this dreadful picture. Consider it a brutal accident on the cinematic freeway. Just slow down long enough to gawk, but keep moving forward at all costs.
A schlub working for his father-in-law at a successful bank, Bill (Aaron Eckhart, in a shrill performance) dreams of a better future for himself when the opportunity to open a donut franchise comes his way. Trapped in a life he doesn’t want, gaining weight by drowning his sorrows in chocolate, and dealing with his adulterous wife (the always welcome Elizabeth Banks), Bill is working his last nerve. Salvation comes in the form of The Kid (Logan Lerman), a smarmy teenager attached to Bill through a mentor program, who guides Bill to psychological even ground by introducing him to friend Lucy (Jessica Alba, looking justifiably lost), an underwear saleswoman with a heart of gold. Emboldened by his rapidly changing life, Bill decides to take control, thus forcing the world to finally take notice of him.
“Meet Bill” is the kind of motion picture that wants to communicate so much about the human condition, yet has no clue how to express itself clearly. It took two directors (Bernie Goldmann and Melissa Wallack) to see the film through production and the end product is still a total mess of execution, intent, and aftertaste. However, it doesn’t commence with the typical signal flares that are often launched during familiar bouts with cruddy cinema.
Starting off the story with Bill’s misery, the filmmakers create a character who, while not relatable, exists in a real world of fear and marital despondency. Bill overeats to keep himself sane, dreams of his donut-approved sovereignty, and possesses wild social phobias that keep him contained in his own private box of hell. It’s a beguiling thread to pull at. Familiar, sure, but not without tart observational results that could potentially shove “Meet Bill” into a feature with unusual psychological density.
Too bad the filmmakers aren’t concerned with pursuing anything potentially draining on the audience, so they turn “Meet Bill” into a goofy domestic distress comedy; an “American Beauty” for those who couldn’t keep up with “American Beauty.” The velocity at which “Meet Bill” stumbles is alarming, made even worse by the flat-out stupidity of the film’s second half. A second half that features Eckhart fighting to sell a shoddy fat suit and losing, twentysomething Lucy making predatory googly-eyes with the 15-year-old Kid, said Kid dressing up in lingerie to impress this faux-cougar, Bill shaving off all of his body hair, and a comical fight where the characters throw fireworks at each other.
It was at this point where I suspected someone was playing a joke on me.
I’m not positive what convinced the actors to accept this lousy script; a piece of writing that’s stunningly clueless and, at times, downright irresponsible. Whatever merit was there in the beginning has been clipped out entirely in the patchy editorial job. It doesn’t take long for “Meet Bill” to suddenly veer off course into total impenetrability, where the characters become a blur, the hacky visual poetry is rolled out, and the plot drops dead.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio), “Meet Bill” suffers from a soft, washed-out image. Black levels are holding on by their fingertips and detail is hazy. A few print defects show up from time to time as well.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix doesn’t feature much agreeable sonic depth. It’s good with dialogue and a few atmospheric touches, but fails to grab the listener on an overall scale.
English SDH and Spanish subtitles are offered.
“Deleted Scenes” (14:02) fail to add the pieces clearly missing from the final cut, but they do present character moments that help to make some sense out of the performances.
A Theatrical Trailer for “Meet Bill” is available on this DVD.
The conclusion of “Meet Bill” is an obviously reshot attempt to bus in a little sympathy for the title character, attempting to send him off with a pure heart that was never in the man to begin with. It’s a transparent move in a loathsome picture, making me secretly wish the title of the film was “Kick Bill.”