You, Me and Dupree
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
Starring Owen Wilson, Matt Dillon, and Kate Hudson
Oh, sweet, sly celebration of slackerdom that is You, Me and Dupree — I’m so glad we met. Know what I love about you? I love that you give us Owen Wilson, who has made a career out of playing the “lovable fuckup,” as his Randy Dupree here dubs himself, and then have the balls to have Matt Dillon as his best friend, Carl Peterson, say to his face, “You’re not that lovable.” Not that I haven’t been having a little fling with Owen and his lovable fuckups since around Shanghai Noon — I think he’s adorable and charming and all that, with his talent for turning loafing and mooching into something Zen and almost religious. But only in the movies is that kind of thing adorable and charming. In reality, you’d kick him out of your life if you didn’t actually kill him first, especially if he behaved like Dupree and pulled any of the truly thoughtless and inconsiderate crap he dumps on Carl and his new wife, Molly, played by Kate Hudson, when he crashes at their lovely new home.
I’ll leave it for the viewer to discover exactly what Dupree does, because his actions are part of the slow buildup the film takes in sketching this guy not as meanspirited or deliberately selfish but as a sensitive soul who simply has no radar for the sensitivities of others. But that’s part of why Dillon’s line — “you’re not that lovable” — is so refreshing and unexpected. Dupree takes Dupree half out of the realm of movie fantasy. It may not have permanently relocated him to a semblance of not-Hollywood realism, but it is at least attempting to commute to that neighborhood. It’s trying to find a balance between not being too deep and thinky and heavy and hence turning off a mainstream audience while also saying, “Look, there’s something here worth considering.”
It’s like this. Dillon delivers his line with a lot more tenderness and exasperation than you might expect, if you’re expecting a cruel and spiteful movie; it’s not a punchline, like it would be, say, in an Adam Sandler movie. This isn’t Click, which is thematically quite similar to Dupree: Sandler has his magical universal remote control to teach him that ya gotta slow down and smell the roses, and that comes across as trite and obvious. Dillon’s Carl — increasingly workaholic, in a constant battle of wills with his new father-in-law (Michael Douglas), who is also his boss — has his maddeningly freespirited pal Dupree to impart the same idea, and here it’s warm and natural and organic. You won’t stumble from the theater feeling as if you’ve been whacked over the head with a message sledgehammer — you’ll skip out high on Dupree’s sudden discovery that maybe he’s not a slacker after all, he just needed to formulate his off-kilter approach to life in a way easily spreadable to the masses. Cuz Carl’s not the only one who needs a little bit of Dupree to remind him what’s important.
What first-time screenwriter Mike LeSieur and directors Anthony and Joe Russo (who gave us the vastly underappreciated Welcome to Collinwood a few years back) have made, in fact, is Click for grownups: there are no fart jokes here, no potty-mouthed kids wiseassing their elders, no fat suits, no pratfalls. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t physical comedy — there is; Dillon has one moment in which the rage and resentment that’ve been seething in Carl finally explode, and it’s way funnier than anything in the likes of Click because his anger truly engenders our sympathy. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t toilet humor — there is; but it’s of the supportive, I-feel-your-pain, laughing-with kind, not the brutal laughing-at kind. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t sexual humor — there is; it represents genuine adult frustration and desire, not juvenile discomfort with the whole thing.
But the thing I think will persuade me to actually fall in love with you, You, Me and Dupree, is that, in the end, you begin to rehabilitate the “slacker” epithet Generation X has been slandered with. Randy Dupree ain’t a bad guy — he’s just differently philosophied. And his philosophy, you insist, in your uniquely goofball way, is one worth listening to.