** (out of four)
Let’s review some stock plot devices, all of which see action in the road drama/love story “Arthur Newman.”
-- A man fakes his own death.
-- A Manic Pixie Dream Girl comes into his life, is both romantically/sexually available, and struggles with family and psychological issues.
-- Someone travels with a bag of money that may or may not be stolen at some point.
-- An absentee father may blow his last chance at connecting with his son.
-- A character’s convertible-enhanced midlife crisis puts little at stake
Colin Firth stars as Wallace Avery—er, make that Arthur Newman, his new persona adopted after staging his own disappearance and aiming to ditch his life as an Orlando FedEx floor manager to become an Indiana golf pro. Almost immediately after shedding his former identity, Arthur meets a woman who goes by Mike (Emily Blunt). She’s beautiful and exciting and a total mess. Conveniently, this expert lock picker and self-described “genetic time bomb” wants to hang with Arthur. In fact, discovering his deception makes her like him more.
As Arthur and Mike journey to the Midwest, they develop a fondness for sneaking into houses, pretending to be the owners, and getting it on. They’re like Bonnie and Clyde without the victims, and it mostly feels like writer Becky Johnston (“Seven Years in Tibet”) padded out the story.
“Arthur Newman” has two excellent actors on board and not a singular character who feels real as written. There aren’t any memorable exchanges or unexpected revelations, behind the joys of shedding responsibility or the realization that when you run from yourself, you’re always right behind you.
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