Anything

Fish out of water stories are often comedies, but “Anything” is hardly that, although it has its moments of muted humor. The land-stranded fish in this tale is Early Landry (John Carroll Lynch), a puffy, hangdog 50-something Southerner, who recently became a widower. After an aborted suicide attempt, he leaves his home in a small Mississippi town to stay with his sister and her family in Los Angeles.

When the action shifts to the West Coast we know we’re in Los Angeles because the standard over-used landmarks, Canter’s, Pink’s and other such establishments, flash up on the screen.

The sister, Laurette (Maura Tierney), a show business executive, is a Type-A personality and a meddler, and is all but impossible to live with, so Early decides to put some space between himself and his sibling. He moves out of his sister’s Brentwood digs and, although he has enough money to live wherever he wants, chooses an apartment in an edgy Hollywood neighborhood. The place couldn’t be more dissimilar from the small, placid community from whence he came. We might rightfully ask ourselves, as his sister does, of all the places in Los Angeles, why there?

“…when she occasionally veers off into risky, self-destructive behavior, Early protects her.

After moving into his new residence he meets an assortment of neighbors who all seem to be leading dysfunctional lives and in various levels of emotional pain. For the most part, they’re self-involved hipsters who smirk and throw caustic remarks at the defenseless Early. The implied joke here is that these narcissistic folks aren’t much different from the red-carpet-obsessed Hollywood players Early meets at one of Laurette’s dinner parties — they’re just meaner and use harder drugs.

One of Early’s new neighbors is Freda (Matt Bomer), a pill-popping transgender hooker whose mood swings cause her to shift from a charming confidante one minute to a cornered feral animal the next. But she’s about the only new acquaintance who doesn’t treat him like a lesser being. The gentle, nurturing and lonely Early strikes up a friendship with her which eventually leads to romance.

Early speaks little of himself, and when he does he seldom reveals much, but clearly he enjoys Freda’s company. She is charming at times but can also a handful. When she occasionally veers off into risky, self-destructive behavior, Early protects her.  

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t delve much below the surface to help us better understand what’s bringing this seemingly mismatched pair together. They both need someone in their lives, but the film never really delves more deeply in their relationship, where Early is the all-giving caretaker and Freda his dependent. Presumably, that’s enough to help the still-grieving Early and the damaged Freda heal.

“…a decidedly sentimental take on the romance between an unlikely pair.”

Despite its handful of gritty characters and some off-screen violence, at its heart, “Anything” is a decidedly sentimental take on the romance between an unlikely pair. In the end, the film wants to imply that the love of a supportive partner can overcome any problem, no matter how insurmountable it may seem. But that overly optimistic view is less than convincing. For instance, when Early helps Freda kick drugs with an intervention that includes a little tough love and a short stint of flushing her pills down the toilet. Problem solved, apparently.

John Carroll Lynch’s Early is a solid presence who seldom seems to get rattled by the bad behavior of those around him. When we first meet him, funeral preparations for his wife are underway. As you’d expect, he seems numb, yet under the surface, we sense that there’s a rage that his Southern gentility forbids him from expressing. He’s detached from the world and reacts to the well-meaning folks around him with a barely perceptible annoyance. The prospect of making a public appearance at the funeral, where he may not be able to control his emotions, is yet another burden that he carries. Lynch is a fine actor, and he musters a convincing performance, although the material he has to work with fails to equal his gifts. The same can be said of the rest of the cast, who give it their all but could have used a more fully developed story to work with. Perhaps there’ll be a more satisfying sequel in the pipeline.

Anything (2017) Directed by Timothy McNeil. Written by Timothy McNeil. Starring John Carroll Lynch, Matt Bomer, Maura Tierney, and Christopher Thornton.

4.5 out of 10

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