Movie Review: “The Enormity of Life” weighs down this lightweight “dark” comedy

A dark comedy about mental illness and its collateral damage, “The Enormity of Life” never really manages a laugh and rarely even crawls out from under its own dispiriting shadow.

And then it gets to one of its many points. A little girl, permanently-triggered by Sandy Hook, endless “Fox News…fear” and mass shootings, wants to stop in Marinette, a town where the one mass shooting that haunts her nightmares took place.

The film is fictional, but this part of it is at least inspired by a real incident. Well, they mess up the age math re: a “survivor,” but something happened in Marinette, Wisconsin that becomes a plot point. The film’s Ohio setting means the movie’s Marinette is meant to be in another state, supposedly off U.S. 16 (which spans the Dakotas).

So, as hard as it is to find a single real-life city or town name in the U.S. that hasn’t had a machine gun shooting event, the filmmakers took liberties with a real life tragedy. That’s unseemly, to say the least.

But long before we take a detour into Marinette, USA, “The Enormity of Life” has lost its way with little hope of ever finding it.

Character actor Breckin Meyer, a veteran lead or lead’s BFF since “Clueless” and “Garfield,” most recently seen on TV’s “Good Girls,” stars in a movie that reaches for cute laughs, sentiment and romance in the midst of depression and schizophrenia and suicide and a little girl broken by obsessing over a unique horror of American childhood.

Meyer plays Casey, whom we meet in voice-over as he reads his own suicide note. Things haven’t worked out, and as the film unfolds and we figure out who he is, who his mother his and see how his nightmarish sister (Debra Herzog) turned out, we kind of get it.

But unlike Casey, we know how tying a noose to a ceiling fan usually works out. They’re not really built for that, son.

That’s not so bad, as he drops to the floor to the sounds of the answering machine message that a probate lawyer needs to see him. Turns out, he’s inherited some cash.

We’re meant to get a chuckle out of the disheveled bottom-feeder attorney (Allen O’Reilly). Maybe things can be turned around when he chats up his cute neighbor (Emily Kinney from “The Walking Dead”), who just happens to be his waitress at a diner nowhere near home. If only he remembered she is his neighbor, that they’ve talked before, that he unclogged her sink once.

Casey is kind of deep into his own despair. He doesn’t really notice other people.

But over the course of a couple of days, he gets involved in Jess’s life, and that of her shooter-obsessed 11 year-old (Giselle Eisenberg), and even of his lowlife sister and off-her-meds mother (Anne McEvoy) as he tries to tamp down his own issues and figure out if this big check and cute blonde and her kid are reason to try again, or just distractions from a life he wishes he’d ended.

The acting here isn’t so much bad as dissonant, as if nobody here is aware “Enormity” is as charmless as it is.

Cleveland director and co-writer Eric Swinderman put some effort into making a Cleveland movie without anything other than the license plates giving away the locale. What he and this film were going for is a sort of life-goes-on, could-be-worse optimism which the viewer and its leading man do not share.

Sometimes things are just too awful, and a lump of cash, a new love and the prospect of helping a similarly despairing child through her funk isn’t enough.

And God forbid Casey should click on a VOD channel streaming “The Enormity of Life” to get him through this. I felt like opening a vein myself by the time it was over.

Rating: unrated, violence, profanity

Cast: Breckin Meyer, Emily Kinney, Giselle Eisenberg and Debra Herzog

Credits: Directed by Eric Swinderman, scripted by Eric Swinderman and Carmen DeFranco. A BayView Entertainment release.

Running time: 1:42

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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