An early scene with a “lost dog” poster implies an oddball pet named “Nothing” might explain the title of “Answers to Nothing.” But writer-director-editor Matthew Leutwyler seems to mean there are no answer-begging questions in the lives of his characters. All are placed in emotional pain. Secular salvation awaits. A couple tries to conceive. She (Elizabeth Mitchell) is a lawyer representing a recovering addict (Miranda Bailey) trying to care for her brain-dead brother; he (Dane Cook) is a therapist treating a TV writer (Kali Hawk) and sleeping with a singer (Aja Volkman). His mother (Barbara Hershey) sadly believes his father will return from France after a nine-year affair. In the routine horror exercise “Unearthed” (2007) that Leutwyler wrote and directed, there are flashbacks to a little girl in dire peril. Here there are news bulletins about a missing girl. The lawyer’s sister (Julie Benz) is on the case. So is a teacher (Mark Kelly) who wants to do more than his after-school multiplayer online avatar can. He ultimately realizes his fantasy of saving a princess, thanks to a grieving fake cop (Erik Palladino) down the hall. Critics tend to credit the tangle of freeways for all the Los Angeles screenplays about intersecting characters. Leutwyler, though, cannot match “Short Cuts,” “Crash,” “Timecode” or “Nine Lives.” His emotional arcs and breakthroughs rely on pop therapy clichés from the eighties. And his attempts to pose black/white race issues, de rigueur in this regional post-Rodney King genre, misfire badly. With Zach Gilford, Greg Germann, Joel Michaely, Cassius Willis, Vincent Ventresca. 113m. (Bill Stamets)
“Answers To Nothing” 0pens Friday at River East.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.