Thursday, July 21, 2011


Rated: R

Stars: Ed Helms, Anne Heche, John C. Reilly, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., Alia
Shawkat, Sigourney Weaver, Kurtwood Smith, Stephen Root

Director: Miguel Arteta

Genre: Dark Comedy

Cedar Rapids, IOWA
--where I lived and worked for a time WAY back in the day. The folks there were--shall we say--not terribly hip. As a young dude, I sported longish hair, and the people would literally hang out their car windows, pointing and laughing at me as I crossed the street! (DUDE LOOK LIKE A LADY...HHAWW!)

Ironic that the same town of today (which appears to be all built up and grown up...I didn't recognize any of it) serves as a metaphor for sophistication in the ultimately sweet, and bittersweet comedy, Cedar Rapids. Sophisticated in comparison to Brown Valley, Wisconsin, anyway--where insurance agent Tim Lippe has come from to attend the big convention.

I had to wonder if Ed Helms, who plays Tim as the ultimate country rube, didn't watch Big with Tom Hanks as many times as I did. Hanks' character is literally a 13 year-old trapped inside an adult male's body. Tim Lippe has no such excuse to fall back on. He's a bona fide adult with the emotional maturity of a 13 year-old. Exactly why, we're not sure, because not everyone in Brown Valley is quite as naive. Take, for example, Tim's middle-aged bed buddy, Macy, (Sigourney Weaver) who has been around the block a time or three (she was once his 7th grade teacher!)

Tim's boss, Bill Krogstad (Stephen Root) sends him off to the insurance convention in hopes of capturing the coveted Two Diamonds Award, an honor previously bestowed upon the local agency for a few years running. When Tim lands in "the big town," the first person he meets is a hooker (Alia Shawkat) who is working the hotel circuit. More culture shock follows when he meets his African-American roommate, (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) and the third roomie--the wild, crazy, and profane Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly). And Tim will soon fall in with Joan, (Anne Heche) a jaded married chick who approaches these conventions as her one chance to taste some freedom, and a little bit of recklessness. And reckless the exploits of these four will become-- as wild parties, booze, drugs, and hanky-panky begin to transform the straight-laced insurance salesman into something he's not sure he ever wanted to be.

Good performances all around--though people like Tim Lippe exist only in a Norman Rockwell world, so in that respect, Helms' portrayal is over the top when compared to the other characters, each of whom COULD be real! And of all the quirky, colorful personalities in Cedar Rapids, I think I like Bree, the hooker, the best. (No reflection on my personal life--heh heh.) She may be the most pragmatic of the bunch, and she dispenses the film's ultimate nugget of wisdom, about the compromises we all make just to get by.

Cedar Rapids is a film that will linger with you like the faint trace of some intoxicating perfume.

And for a dose of reality, I just read that prostitution is a growing problem in the city. PIMPS AND HOOKERS...WOW! Guess I could walk those streets now with my pony tail and see people who look a lot weirder than me!

How times change.

Grade: B +