Charlie McDowell’s The One I Love was an awesome movie that was able to use this great sci-fi premise to investigate the intricacies of a married couple. One of the reasons that film worked so well was the dynamic chemistry between the two leads in Moss and Duplass. With The Discovery, McDowell attempts something similar, swirling a blossoming love-story with his unique take on the afterlife. What I said might be our new Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind back when I released “My Most Anticipated of the Year List,” is far from it due to lack-luster pairing of leads.
On its sci-fi principalities, The Discovery is fascinating, tackling the dilemmas that would arise if the existence of an afterlife were to be proved. Its all grounded in a reality that matches that of our world and the film’s gloomy mood adds to the general population’s depressive state with regards to the exponential increase in suicides that arose once the discovery was made. In a world where the afterlife has been proved, the film seems to focus on what the afterlife could be and the peril at hand with knowing something exists but not knowing what it is. Anything revolving the study of the afterlife and the discovery’s effect on society is extremely intriguing and thoughtful, helping the film stay afloat despite its stale protagonist.
I love Jason Segel, the man’s great, whether we’re talking about his comedic chops as seen in HIMYM or his incredible abilities as a dramatic actor as seen in The End of the Tour, Segel is great, it just so happens he was terribly miscast here. Where Rooney Mara, Redford and Jesse Plemmons fit perfectly into their roles, Segel and Keough seem to be awfully misplaced. With the fact that Segel plays our main character in the story, his dull performance drags the story down and completely obliterates any romantic spark between him and Rooney Mara. Seeing as that’s the part of the story that’s supposed to be the driving force behind this movie, the movie is dragged down from the greatness of its promissory premise.
Now that I’ve gone on and on about the choices that bring this film down, I have to say there is greatness to be found amongst the rubbles of haphazard project. As I mentioned previously, the sci-fi element of the story is fascinating, but the film also weaves in a cult-like factor that makes you uneasy because its never really explained. The reason this element of the story works so well is because of the commanding presence Robert Redford exudes onto the screen. With that element factored into the story, the film takes on a Leftovers type feel that’s quite intriguing. Albeit, within that portion of the story, a sub-plot involving Riley Keough’s character is introduced and I honestly couldn’t care less about the aforementioned sub-plot and that’s saying a lot considering the fact that I believe Keough to be one of the most promising talents working today. Looking back on the gems amongst the debris, I can’t praise Bensi and Jurriaans musical composing enough. Their work is stellar and although it does seem to overpower some of the scenes with its loudness, the music is still amazing.
With that said, I’m sad to say The Discovery is a rather forgettable film. The sci-fi elements are deeply intriguing yet unfulfilled to their full potential, that being a result of the nonexistent romantic chemistry between the two leads. Looking back at the film’s finale, which despite its lack of emotional punch, I thought was great, I can just imagine it being ten times better if I actually cared about the two leads’ relationship. All I can say is this film definitely had ambition and potential, but its simply not fulfilled in this lackluster version of the project. Maybe, in some alternate plane of existence better casting calls are made and we get to see a better version of such a promising project; however, I guess I’ll have to die in order to see that version and I’m definitely not willing to do so after being disappointed once.