Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

Knowing that this film is the work of a novice writer-director who struggled to make his ideas clear on "Project Greenlight" (he lost the competition but got the film financed anyway) could be the key to enjoying it. Many films use clich├ęs and few deserve get away with it, but gosh, you just want to cut the kid some slack; he's trying his darnedest, you know. The film is pretty good when it settles into the daily lives of its down-to-Earth protagonists, playing out like a low-key riff on "American Beauty" with more plausible dialogue. Nicky Katt's poorly-developed pawnbroker is a weakness, spouting off wise sayings while never demonstrating any actual wisdom, but David Strathairn's put-upon everyman makes a sympathetic lead: He loves his wife and he loves his father-in-law and he even loves his mischievous dog, and this is the story of his standing by them as they reject him and test his patience, because that's what everymen do. Ultimately the uplift can ring a little phony (especially when the ends are tied too neatly in the closing scenes), but Murphy has an ear for dialogue and a suberb casting director, and he works this laid-back drama into a touching and traditional yarn. This might be one of the most pleasing little indie movies this year.

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