Better Living through Chemistry

Rated: Not Rated

            Romantic comedies are a genre of film that makes me cringe. Despite there being an infinite number of them, the general premise is always the same: Boy meets girl, stuff happens, boy and girl get together and live happily ever after, everyone claps and shouts “hooray!”, the end. In general, I try my best to stay away from them, but it seems there is no escape. These days filmmakers have taken films that should have no rom-com elements, and thrown them in anyways in the hopes of making their films more appealing to a wider array of people. The most blatant example of this I can think of is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a great film with a great story, and didn’t need a side story where Walter Mitty falls in love thrown in. The addition of the romantic story was totally unnecessary, and brings the whole film down a peg or two.
         But, as rare as it is to find a comedy with no romantic elements thrown in, it’s even rarer to find a rom-com that doesn’t fit the general rom-com outline. These are the types of rom-coms I can tolerate (and dare I say, enjoy?). 
Better Living through Chemistry is just such a film.
Better Living through Chemistry is the story of Doug Varney. Doug is a small town pharmacist who’s fitness crazed wife, jerk of a father in-law and weird son, along with the utter mundanity of his life, have gotten him down. While delivering a prescription one night he meets the sexy, young trophy wife of a millionaire, Elizabeth. Elizabeth quickly convinces Doug that life can be so much better with drugs, money and sex.
        This film surpassed any (low) expectations I had prior to watching it. Of these expectations, the one that stands out the most is its lack of predictability. As I said before, most rom-coms follow a formula, thus taking away the element of surprise and making them completely predictable.
Better Living through Chemistry, while having a couple of plot points I was able to guess beforehand, mostly kept me guessing, which is a good thing because it means that I was entertained.
        The main conclusion that I came to after watching this film is that Sam Rockwell makes everything better. He’s just one of those versatile actors that can take any role, be it ridiculous, serious or otherwise, and make it the best it can be. His role in
Better Living through Chemistry is no different. Had anyone else been cast as the main character, Doug, I’m not sure the film would’ve been as entertaining as it was. Sam was able to take a character that seemed one dimensional and plain, and make him complex and deep. With Sam’s portrayal of Doug you’re heart goes out to him, despite the fact that he’s the one cheating on his wife and doing drugs, which in any other movie would make him the bad guy.
        As I’m sure you know by now, I’m one that seems to go against the flow of what other critics, and people, like film-wise, and this is no exception.
Better Living through Chemistry has a rating of only 20% fresh on, with some of the more notable quotes as to why going something like this: “Sam Rockwell's committed performance can't save the glib debut of filmmakers Geoff Moore and David Posamentier,” says Geoff Berkshire of Variety. “Some chemicals, when combined, manage only to become inert,” says Jonathan Keifer of SF Weekly. And my favorite, “There are plenty of fine comedic moments in Better Living, it's just that the deeper exploration of life, expectations of and pursuit of happiness is as rote and exciting as getting a prescription filled,” says Tom Meek of Paste Magazine.
        The problem here though is that many of these people, and professional critics in general, are simply trying too hard. I think a lot of them seem to forget after a while that some films just don’t have anything deeper; what appears on the surface is all there is, and they’re made for entertainment only. Not every film needs to be a cinematic masterpiece or a visually stunning piece of artwork. Sometimes it’s just best to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride, and what a ride
Better Living through Chemistry is!

Better Living through Chemistry is not rated, was directed by Geoff Moore and David Posamentier and stars Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, Michelle Monaghan, Ben Schwartz and Ken Howard. It is available now on DVD, Blu Ray and streaming.