Mustering through Making the Rules is like watching a bunch of people try and sail using only the framework of a boat.
The film marks the acting debut of musician Robin Thicke. This triggers a question right off the bat: is watching thespian Thicke as painful as it sounds? My answer may disappoint those wanting me to slam the Blurred Lines hit maker. I honestly couldn’t tell you if his performance is tone deaf.
There’s a saying about an actor’s work. A performance is only as good as the material and direction provided. Making the Rules is a true testament to that. The actors are doing as much as they can under the uninspired supervision of filmmaker/screenwriter Jimbo Lee.
Like I said, the film has the bare bones of a romantic drama. Lee has a conflict involving a masterful chef (Abby played by Jamie Pressly) injuring herself during meal preparation. By slicing her fingers, Abby is forced to take time off of work. She frequently feels alone sitting around her house, waiting for her workaholic husband to return from his latest job. She tends to chores, hangs out with her BFF Becca (played by Joey Lauren Adams), and tries to process whatever spiritual mumbo-jumbo her Mother spouts off.
I usually have faith when watching Pressly and Adams in action. Both have shown they are capable of carrying a movie. And, Thicke is at least appropriately cast as a chiseled, well coiffed ex-flame who could win Abby over with a smile. But, these performers are wallowing in the hollow.
Lee’s script strains to find anything authentic in his characters or the struggles they encounter. What the filmmaker has done irrationally is try and manufacture off-the-cuff improvisation – a recipe for disaster. The conversational vibe to the exchanges between friends or ex-lovers hardly has a stimulus to evoke their reactions. Everyone is making it clear that they’re reading lines off of a laden script.
The lack of convincing emotions and motives clashes with Lee’s inability to give directions to his actors. It feels as if the filmmaker is reluctant to give his performers details face-to-face because he has put everything they need to know in the script. Little does he know, the screenplay is overcooked and the focus he’s zoned in on his writing needs to be more involved with his duties as a director.
Case in point: Making the Rules has too many emphasized scenes of Abby silently reflecting on the cards life has dealt her. Lee has Pressly observing and thinking for what feels like over half of the film, having epiphanies no one in the audience believes. The production’s flaws add insult to injury as on-location audio extinguishes Pressly’s attempt to add personalization to Abby.
Jimbo Lee seems to be the only person who sees Making the Rules as noteworthy work. Everyone else, however, seems to unanimously agree on how doomed the film really is. Everyone’s sticking it out to cash a paycheque.
If Lee can take that same go-getter attitude to his next movie, he’ll be good to go. But, he needs to brush up on this bush league filmmaking – big time. Because as it stands, Making the Rules is a pretty sorry start to Jimbo’s feature film career.