Written by: David Guion & Michael Handelman
Starring: Zach Braff, Amanda Peet, Jason Bateman, Charles Grodin, Mia Farrow
The primal nature of people instills various emotions we simply cannot fight off no matter how hard we try. Feeling jealous appears to be the one hitting at an individual’s insecurities while also having the ability to cause the most damage to interpersonal relationships. The Ex displays this particular issue but it fails in ever making a single sympathetic character to the point where it just became an aggravating experience.
With a newborn child brought into the world, Tom (Zach Braff) and Sofia (Amanda Peet) enter a new phase in their marriage. They decide Sofia will stay home with the baby while Tom starts working for his father-in-law’s ad agency. While starting there he must work under Sofia’s ex-boyfriend, Chip (Jason Bateman), who apparently still has feelings for her and seeks to ruin Tom’s life in order to get another chance with her.
It’s hard to fathom the individuals making this film thought it would be a good idea by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, people do get jealous when their significant others speak about their exes, even with no rational fear of it impacting the relationship. Even I have those moments where my wife talks about a guy she had a crush on during her middle school years. I have absolutely no reason to feel jealous about it, but it creeps in my gut for the very reason that I’m assuming spurred on this idea of a feature film. In this movie’s case, the ex has re-inserted themselves into this couple’s life and will attempt to destroy Tom and gain sympathy with Sofia.
The central emotion makes sense, but this film falls into the same place as Daddy’s Home where any semblance of basic communication would just end the story, but the movie has to movie. If Tom at any point throughout the film just speaks on the feelings he has about Chip trying to spend time with her then any rational relationship would cut off all of the other shenanigans. Instead, we have to watch Tom make a fool out of himself trying to prove Chip isn’t actually a paraplegic in the harshest and cruelest ways, including throwing him down a flight of stairs. I can list 100 other ways he could have handled this situation, which actually makes me root for no one in this story. If Tom has this level of insecurity in his relationship and honestly thinks his wife would leave him, the father of her child, for some guy she dated when a teenager, then maybe he does not deserve her after all.
All of this could be excused if the film’s comedy or absurdity worked, which it did not by any metric of quality. Everything becomes mean-spirited where the big mystery becomes whether or not Chip has pretended to be a paraplegic since the age of five. The tactics used to utilize this as comedy and the eventual conclusion make no narrative sense that it genuinely stuns me creatives read over this screenplay and decided that this would be a good story to put out into the world.
The poster and premise should make anyone not want to watch this putrid film but its cast becomes the main draw because not only does it have Braff and Bateman, but also appearances by Amy Poehler, Fred Armisen, Paul Rudd, and even Amy Adams. How in the world did so many talented people read over this script and conclude this is what they want to attach their name to? It honestly boggles my mind because the material they were provided could not be saved even with their level of comedic timing. Every single cast member had nothing but a disservice done to them.
By the time the film concludes, all you have left is a man who showed a complete lack of trust in his wife and made a fool out of himself to bring down a man who should not have emasculated him in such a way. Having insecurities makes for great characters but the way they react to them defines them overall and nothing in Tom deserves to be seen as positive. His convictions were true throughout but the way he went about it does not come across as funny or endearing for anyone to possibly connect to. A complete misfire from its very conception and one the talent involved never mention as their favorite roles with good reason.