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He makes comedies and has a dead-on satirical aim, but Stiller never seems content with just evoking laughs.
There's always something else at work in his films, and it often makes people uncomfortable, which is why it's rare when he has a big success like acquired quirky overtones that inhibited easy laughter.
Very quickly, Lelaina is faced with the classic dilemma between selling out and letting Michael's network reshape her work (but thereby solving all her money problems) or sticking to her artistic vision. All of the main characters alternate between insightful and idiotic, entertaining and obnoxious, potentially good people and utter losers.
Each is, in his or her own way, trying to find a path through a confusing landscape for which there is no reliable map and in which the signposts keep changing. Universal's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray is somewhat tricky to evaluate, because much of the film was actually shot and edited on conventional videotape (not even digital video) and will therefore never look any better than the source.
Lelaina's situation is worsened by the presence of Troy Dyer (Ethan Hawke), a nihilistic "cool guy" with a 180 IQ, who writes songs and plays in a band.
Dyer long ago concluded that life is pointless; his answering machine message asks callers to leave their name, number and "a brief justification for the ontological necessity of modern man's existential dilemma".
The first images we see are of Lelaina speaking as class valedictorian at her college commencement (videotaped, one presumes, by a family member).
In a moment that foreshadows much of the film, Lelaina discovers that she's missing a critical index card as she reaches the climax of the speech, and she has to wing it.
Even in a landscape transformed by smartphones, the internet and social media, college graduates still enter a tough job market with heads stuffed with high ideals, only to find their expectations dashed.
" she says at one point, sick of the bickering that masks their attraction.
A fourth member of the group is Sammy Gray (Steve Zahn), whose role was reduced during script development, but who provides a quiet balance.
The portions shot on film are sharp, clear and detailed with a realistic palette that shies away from overly saturated colors.
However, consistent with Universal's frequent approach to catalog titles, these portions have been mastered to minimize their origination as film.