Dedication Review
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Each year, thousands of filmmakers showcase their films at film festivals. Some make million-dollar deals and end up in theaters around the country, while others may show up in a few theaters before making their way to DVD. That means that there are plenty of refreshingly different little gems to be found in independent theaters and on library shelves. And, as a film critic, it’s my job to dig around and find those surprising little films—films like the flawed but lovable Dedication.

Dedication (a 2007 Sundance pick) stars Billy Crudup as Henry Roth, a kids’ book author whose career (not to mention his whole messed-up life) is thrown off-balance when his long-time illustrator and best friend, Rudy (Tom Wilkinson), dies.

With very little time remaining until the deadline for Henry’s next book, his publisher, Arthur Planck (Bob Balaban), hires Lucy (Mandy Moore), an illustrator who’s at the end of her rope. This is her one last chance to pursue her artistic dream before her landlord/mom (Dianne Weist) evicts her and forces her to go to law school. Unfortunately, she’s stuck with Henry—a cranky and severely phobic writer who’s anything but eager to let someone new into his life.

Though it fits into the basic chick flick formulas, Dedication has a crazy, dysfunctional edge to it—and that helps to keep it interesting. Of course, the film isn’t without its flaws. The story’s flow is a bit off—and the characters’ relationship is somewhat underdeveloped—which means that the relationship seems to turn on a dime. One minute, they hate each other; the next minute, they’re in love; then they go back to not liking each other so much, and so on. So the story’s emotional jumps are sometimes a bit hard to believe (not to mention hard to follow). But while underdevelopment often ruins some movies, it’s little more than a glitch for Dedication, an otherwise lovable film.

For the most part, the characters make Dedication an enjoyable film—because they’re imperfect and eccentric. Lucy’s weakness for her smooth-talking slimeball ex may be frustrating at times—but [sadly] it’s also realistic. Similarly, Henry is far from perfect. Sure, he’s cute, but he’s also obsessive compulsive and afraid of the simplest of things (like riding in cars). He’s got a pretty rough exterior that’s not easy to break—and sometimes he’s just plain mean. Still, he knows a good thing when he sees it, and he makes a solid attempt to get beyond the issues that haunt his past and change his ways—just because he cares about Lucy. Both leads give solid performances—especially Crudup, who does a wonderful job of portraying his character’s struggle. But even the supporting actors (especially Balaban) make their few on-screen moments count.

In spite of its flaws, Dedication is a strangely lovable film. It’s not the average, run-of-the-mill chick flick with the average, ridiculously-perfect characters—and that makes it a unique little romantic comedy that’s worth checking out.

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