Reviewed by: Emma Slawinski

As it stands, Matthew Perry's record post-Friends isn't going to be pulling the punters in; nor, let's face it, is a storyline involving a man who is chronically withdrawn for three quarters of the film. Optimistically billed as a romantic comedy, there are about two decent gags in the whole of Numb. Even the trailer had me yawning.

Perry plays Hudson, a successful screenwriter who after smoking too much pot one night descends into a near-catatonic state in which he feels detached from the world, hopeless, and unable to engage with people. A chance meeting with a beautiful, kooky film executive, Sara (Lynn Collins), gives him something to live for, and he confronts his depression by seeing a string of psychiatrists and working at his relationship.

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The film's writer/director Harris Goldberg has stated that the film is based on his own experiences, and cited a positive response from the test audience, who felt they could relate to Hudson's battle with 'disphoria', as his condition is labelled in the film. At the risk of sounding callous, I can't see how Numb has added anything either to the debate about mental health or to the romantic comedy genre. Goldberg has written the romance between Hudson and Sara in a deliberately quirky style that brings to mind much more original films like Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind or Garden State, but fails to bring out the same chemistry in its leading couple. It's all very deliberate, very trite, and consequently very dull. Perry does a good line in looking blank and bumming around, but seems to have completely lost the knack of comic timing. Perhaps his abysmal lines induced real depression in the actor.

A little light relief is provided by Mary Steenburgen as Hudson's psychiatrist, whose techniques are wonderfully effective, until she becomes obsessed with him. There's an entertaining scene in which she declares her love very vocally in a crowded restaurant. With her out of the way though, Hudson's back to being glum and staring into middle distance.

Numb is one way of killing an hour and a half, but you risk leaving the cinema as despondent as the protagonist. The title is spookily predictive of the viewing experience.

Reviewed on: 23 Jun 2008
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A love-struck screnwriter tries to come to terms with depersonalisation disorder.
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Director: Harris Goldberg

Writer: Harris Goldberg

Starring: Matthew Perry, Barry W. Levy, Mark Acheson, Julia Anderson, Ben Ayres, Angela Besharah, Beverley Breuer, Lynn Collins, Noah Danby, William B. Davis, Holly Eglington

Year: 2007

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: Canada, US


Tribeca 2007

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