You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

If I Were You

A woman's discovery of her husband's infidelity triggers a series of increasingly unlikely responses in writer-director Joan Carr-Wiggin's chatty, slight "If I Were You."

With: Marcia Gay Harden, Leonor Watling, Aidan Quinn, Valerie Mahaffey, Joseph Kell, Michael Therriault, Gary Piquer, Bethany Jillard, Elizabeth Whitmere, Claire Brosseau.

A woman’s discovery of her husband’s infidelity triggers a series of increasingly unlikely responses in writer-director Joan Carr-Wiggin’s chatty, slight “If I Were You.” It’s hard to imagine the film working at all without the commanding presence of the always versatile Marcia Gay Harden as a wife whose life is turned upside down, but whose choices tend to strain believability at every turn. If anything, that Harden shines in such a problematic starring role only reaffirms her stature, and may boost distrib and ancillary interest.

In the opening minutes, Carr-Wiggin’s script wastes no time sending wife and biz exec Madelyn (Harden) into a tizzy, as she accidentally spies hubby Paul (Joseph Kell) holding hands with younger gal Lucy (Leonor Watling) in a Toronto bistro. Madelyn’s subsequent call to Paul’s cell phone prompts him to call it quits, which then begins a succession of over-the-top reactions: Madelyn follows Lucy to her apartment and prevents Lucy from hanging herself.

From that point, conversation between the two women is ripe with irony: Lucy, a struggling actor, reveals all about the affair and takes Madelyn into her confidence, not realizing she’s Paul’s wife. Lucy then has the high-concept idea that each of them should stop making her own decisions, and instead decide for each other. This places Madelyn in the position of playing Lucy and Paul to her advantage, though this kind of Machiavellian strategy seems inconsistent with the fundamentally kind person Harden projects.

Unfortunately, for the purposes of this comedy, she must also get goofy, leading to an implausible subplot in which Madelyn accompanies Lucy to an audition for “King Lear” and somehow winds up cast in the title role. A more satisfying storyline has Madelyn visiting her Alzheimer’s-ridden mother at a long-term care facility, only to have a romantic encounter with likable Derek (Aidan Quinn).

Carr-Wiggin’s tube-style direction is better attuned to words than to images, but the chain of fairly incredible situations is simply more than the comedy can bear. Some auds may be willing to stomach the excesses, but the strain never ceases to show.

Nonetheless, Harden’s timing and responses are impeccable, allowing the viewer to observe her character thinking on her feet and gaming the situations as quickly as possible. It works as well as it does because of the actor’s highly intelligent manner: She seems constitutionally incapable of looking or sounding dumb, even when Madelyn heads in the most ridiculous directions.

The supporting cast is pitched at the level of farce, especially Watling, Gary Piquer as an obsequious type and Valerie Mahaffey as his clueless, suspicious wife. Kell barely registers, while Quinn comes off nicely in one of his lighter, more likable recent turns.

Bruce Worrall’s lensing is bright in what looks like early winter in Toronto, and other production departments are pro. Score has Italianate influences that sound out of place.

If I Were You


Production: A Paragraph Pictures presentation in association with TallTree Pictures. (International sales: Inferno Distribution, Los Angeles.) Produced by David Gordian, Alan Latham. Executive producers, Savitri Gordian, Vito Bianchini, Luciano Drigo, Peter Bates, Kirsty Bell, Vince Woods. Co-executive producer, Mark Paladini. Directed, written by Joan Carr-Wiggin.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color, HD), Bruce Worrall; editor, Elizabeth Cotter; music, Paolo Buonvino; production designers, Aidan Leroux, Sean Breaugh; set decorator, Nigel Hutchins; costume designer, Brenda Broer; sound (stereo), Bill McMillan; supervising sound editors, David McCallum, Jane Tattersall; re-recording mixers, Lou Solakofski, Kirk Lynds; assistant director, David McAree; casting, Mark Paladini, Simone Reynolds, John Buchan, Jason Knight. Reviewed at Palm Springs Film Festival (World Cinema), Jan. 14, 2012. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 114 MIN.

Cast: With: Marcia Gay Harden, Leonor Watling, Aidan Quinn, Valerie Mahaffey, Joseph Kell, Michael Therriault, Gary Piquer, Bethany Jillard, Elizabeth Whitmere, Claire Brosseau.

More Scene

  • 'Schitt's Creek' Stars Reveal Dream Guest

    'Schitt's Creek' Cast Reveals Dream Guest Stars: Oprah, Beyonce and ...

    “Schitt’s Creek” has big dreams. Dan Levy, who stars as David on the series, says his wish list of guest stars includes Oprah, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Gwyneth Paltrow. “All for different reasons, none of whom we’ll get,” he cracked at the Critics’ Choice Awards. For those who haven’t caught on to the “Schitt’s Creek” [...]

  • Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bundchen

    Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen to Be Honored at UCLA Science Gala

    Science can be very glamorous. It certainly will be during Oscar week on Feb. 21 when the UCLA Institute of the Environment & Sustainability (IoES) honors Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen for environmental activism at its annual Hollywood for Science Gala. “When I moved to LA, the air was unbreathable. Rivers were catching fire in [...]

  • Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells Black

    Don Cheadle, Andrew Rannells Talk Snorting 'Coke' on 'Black Monday'

    “Black Monday” show creators David Caspe and Jordan Cahen divulged an intriguing detail to come later in the first season of the new Showtime comedy at its world premiere, held at the Theatre at Ace Hotel on Monday night in Los Angeles. “The fourth or fifth episode opens with a sexual harassment seminar, which very well [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron attends the 44th Annual

    Alfonso Cuarón to LAFCA: 'Thanks to Your Help We Can Break Down Walls'

    Inclusion was the big winner at the L.A. Film Critics Association Awards, which was held Saturday night at the InterContinental in Century City. “This year’s winners are the most diverse in LAFCA’s 43-year history,” announced its president, Claudia Puig, adding that 14 out of their 18 awards were won by women and people of color. [...]

  • Mandatory Credit: Photo by Max Malandrino/REX/Shutterstock

    Hollywood Power Players Assemble to Save Iconic Deli Nate 'n Al

    A group of Hollywood executives and celebrities have banded together with the intent to save Beverly Hills deli and star haunt Nate ‘n Al, a stone’s throw from tourist destination Rodeo Drive. A consortium of investors including music kingpin Irving Azoff and wife Shelli, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Jeff Shell, and Rande Gerber and [...]

  • Charlie Collier, FOX Chief Executive Officer

    'The Passage' Team Talks Diversifying Races, Genders and Ages of Book Characters

    “The Passage” star Saniyya Sidney was unaware that the book version of her character was originally white until her father, a fan of Justin Cronin’s apocalyptic trilogy, informed her during the audition process. “I was like, ‘Oh, she is?'” Sidney told Variety at Thursday’s series premiere in Santa Monica, Calif. “And when I got it, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content