Thomas Middleditch is that lanky, likeable put-upon Canadian star of “Silicon Valley” and too many Verizon commercials to count. Maybe he can’t convince you to switch cell phone services, but his EveryShlump image makes him easy to pity and root for.
He’s the pleasantly suicidal center “Entanglement,” an amusing romantic comedy of limited ambition but an exceptionally light touch. He and it are just winsome enough to work.
We don’t have to read “Telefilm Canada” in the producing credits to taste the maple leaf syrup here. We meet Ben (Middleditch) as he is composing a suicide note. It’s apologetic — very Canadian. He’s just lost, a lovelorn loner trapped “inside the pattern” of his life, determined to “find a way to get out.”
Running a hose from his vintage Volvo’s tailpipe up into his apartment just gets his car stolen. He doesn’t have the right pills to pull off Plan B. You’ve got to plug the toaster in BEFORE you toss it into the tub with you. At least his pen knife is sharp enough to do the trick — slowly.
But in his most Canadian act of all, the buzzer rings for his apartment building and he’s too polite to leave the person standing at the door. He staggers out of the crimson tub to answer it and a package delivery guy saves his life.
Months later, he’s lying on the floor, talking to a shrink (Johannah Newmarch of “Supernatural”). He’s over “Claire,” the woman who broke his heart. He’s much better.
“Do you LIKE yourself?”
“As a friend? A friend with benefits?”
OK, she’s a child psychologist and this isn’t really her thing. Ben needs to sort out “where my life went wrong” for himself. And when his dad, panicked over a heart attack, tells him he and Ben’s mother adopted a girl only to give her up when mom had Ben, the suicidal son thinks he has his answer.
“I could have had a SISTER? You have any idea how FORMATIVE that is?”
“Entanglement” is about tracking down, meeting (cute) that “sister,” and falling for Hanna (Jess Weixler) as she seems to answer his Big Life Questions for him, putting down the coincidence of their connecting to the universe and “Quantum Entanglement” — the idea that particles and people might be invisibly bonded in ways that seem like mere chance but feel like a grand design.
When you set out to keep your romantic comedy quick and to the point, the challenge is in making random moments funny in ways that advance the plot. How’s he find this “sister?” A stern social services employee who refuses to give out her name turns out to hate his job and can be corrupted for just $50.
Middleditch is forlorn in all the usual long-faced rom-com ways, and Weixler ( TV’s “The Good Wife,” “The Son”) makes a swaggering, forward flirt of the first order, great at snappy banter and a challenge to Ben’s self-absorbed wimpiness. She rides a man’s bicycle. Ben?
“You’re riding a girl’s bike!”
Then there’s Ben’s too-helpful neighbor, the sweet and supportive Tabby. Diana Bang plays her with a touching open-heartedness. We can feel her longing for Ben as he throws himself at the blonde with the boots, even as she’s giving the stereotypical Asian supporting character common sense lecture.
“She’s probably catfishing you!”
Even in a short and relatively brisk comedy like this, some ideas fall flat. Ben’s fantasy life is limited to seeing adorable puppet deer in the woods when he’s with Hanna, or glowing jellyfish in the city pool she breaks them into for a midnight swim. His would-be therapist uses a bear puppet, and sometimes the bear talks to him.
But the script has laugh-out-loud moments and zippy exchanges. Middleditch and Weixler give this smarts and just enough sexy sass to work. And Bang gives it heart.
Which adds up to an “Entanglement” that you’ll be in no hurry to rid yourself of.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with suicide attempts, profanity, adult situations
Cast: Thomas Middleditch, Jess Weixler, Diana Bang, Johannah Newmarch
Credits:Directed by Jason James, script by Jason Filiatrault . A Dark Star release.
Running time: 1:25