Ryan Reynolds as Frank Allen
Emily Mortimer as Susan Allen
Stuart Townsend as Buddy Endrow
Sarah Chalke as Paula Crowe
Mike Erwin as Ed
Constance Zimmer as Peg the Teacher
Matreya Fedor as Jesse Allen (7 years)
Elisabeth Harnois as Jesse Allen
Chris Martin as Damon
Jovanna Huguet as Maid of Honor
Christopher Jacot as Simon / Best Man
Alessandro Juliani as Ken
Lisa Calder as Sherri
Ty Olsson as Evil Ferryman
Jocelyne Loewen as Pregnant Nancy
Directed by Marcos Siega
“Chaos Theory” combines dark cynical humor with a moving relationship drama that never goes where you might expect, but is as much a coup for director Marcos Siega as it is for Ryan Reynolds.
Frank Allen (Ryan Reynolds) is a motional speaker who specializes in efficiency training but when his wife Susan (Emily Mortimer) tries to get him to relax by resetting his clock, she ends up making him late for an important engagement which leads to a series of incidences that threaten to destroy Frank’s organized life.
There’s something about Marcos Siega that makes you want him to do good, maybe because his first movie “Underclassman” was a work-for-hire that fell victim to the Weinstein’s exodus from Miramax after being delayed for years, coming out weeks after his second movie “Pretty Persuasion,” which had a better premise but suffered from its negligible budget. It’s hard not to think of all those “could have beens” as you watch his third movie “Chaos Theory” but thankfully, Siega has used his previous experiences to find the right balance of style and storytelling to tell a quirky morality tale that shows lots of promise for future endeavors.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Siega’s third attempt stars Ryan Reynolds, an extremely underrated actor who has turned his ability for dark cynical humor into a science since we first saw him in “Van Wilder.” Frank Allen has a similar cynical attitude, but he wasn’t always like that, as we find out when the film flashes back to a New Year’s party decades earlier where Allen and his friend Buddy (Stuart Townsend) are competing for the attention of the lovely Susan (Emily Mortimer). The introverted Frank wins out and seven years later, they’re married with a seven-year-old daughter, and he’s leading a regimented life made up of lists and slogans. In an attempt to loosen her husband up, Susan resets the clocks, making him late for an important seminar he’s leading and a downwards spiral as Frank allows himself to be seduced by a gorgeous woman at the conference–Sarah Chalke from “Scrubs” at her sexiest as she strips down to bra and panties. While driving home, he stops to help a stranded pregnant woman, leading to a misunderstanding that ends his marriage. When Frank takes a paternity test to try to clear his name and get Susan back, he finds out that he’s been sterile, which means their daughter is not his. Frank starts drinking and losing his mind, turning his efficiency system into a quirk where he writes random things down on file cards and picks one to do.
Much of the film, Frank is either moping or raging about how his life has gone to sh*t from one careless attempt at making his life easier, but much of the film’s fun comes from watching him do crazy things like starting bar fights in his attempt to “live for the moment.” It’s ultimately a strange and quirky premise for a film but one that offers many satisfying moments within Reynolds’ performance that clearly proves his potential to play Nicholson-level anti-hero roles in a way that you can love him and hate what he does at the same time. While some of the credit has to go to the make-up and hair department, the fact that we readily believe Reynolds as the older and younger more naïve versions of Frank Allen is a testament to his skills as an actor. Emily Mortimer is in similar mode to her work in “Lars and the Real Girl” and Stuart Townsend is also decent as the best friend trying to make right an indiscretion that ruined his friend’s marriage.
The film is quite short to the point where it ends abruptly, almost unexpectedly, but considering the dark and snarky nature of much of the film’s humor, the ending is surprisingly warm and touching pulling the viewer back from the deep end, and it’s a satisfying pay-off for those who’ve allowed themselves to get pulled into the lives of these characters.
The Bottom Line:
Like some of the best indie comedies, “Chaos Theory” takes an original premise and uses it to showcase a decent script and solid performances, and even after it starts getting too dark and dramatic, it does a return to a place that wins you over by the end. So congratulations to Marcos Siega for finally getting one right!