Numb casts Matthew Perry as Hudson, a struggling screenwriter who essentially wakes up one morning afflicted with acute depersonalization disorder - a condition that leaves Hudson feeling disconnected from reality and even his own body. After sinking into a depressive funk, Hudson finds himself falling for a perky development executive named Sarah (Lynn Collins) - although, not surprisingly, their fledgling relationship is inevitably threatened by Hudson's psychological problems. There's little doubt that Numb stands out as a refreshingly innovative spin on a contemporary romantic comedy, as writer/director Harris Goldberg infuses the film's primary relationship with a distinctly authentic vibe - something that stems primarily from Perry and Collins' undeniably charismatic work as the central characters (ie these two have genuine chemistry with one another). It's worth noting that the movie does suffer following their expected fake break-up (which unfortunately comes at the midway point), with the subsequent emphasis on Hudson's efforts at getting better essentially transforming Numb into an altogether different sort of film. And while there's plenty within the movie's second half that works - excluding Hudson's egregiously silly dalliance with an older psychiatrist (Mary Steenburgen's Cheryl) - there's simply no overlooking the fact that one's interest slowly-but-surely wanes once Collins' character exits the proceedings. Still, Numb generally succeeds as an intimate look at one man's struggle with mental illness - yet it remains virtually impossible not to wish that Goldberg had focused exclusively on Hudson and Sarah's surprisingly compelling coupling.
Steel City (May 13/08)
Awfully low-key yet undeniably engaging, Steel City follows struggling working-class figure PJ Lee (Thomas Guiry) as he attempts to carve out some kind of a niche for himself - with his efforts stymied by the recent arrest of his father (John Heard's Carl) and his ongoing feud with brother Ben (Clayne Crawford). Writer/director Brian Jun has infused Steel City with an appropriately laid-back sensibility that sporadically borders on oppressive, as the film's incredibly slow-paced structure demands a significant amount of patience from the viewer. There's little doubt that one is slowly-but-surely drawn into PJ's expectedly downbeat existence, however, with Guiry's subtle, periodically electrifying work transforming the character into a surprisingly sympathetic figure (a vibe that's heightened by PJ's tentative romance with America Ferrera's sweet Amy). And while it's hard to deny the effectiveness of the various supporting performances and authenticity that's been hard-wired into the proceedings, Steel City does suffer from an increasingly meandering structure that inevitably dulls the movie's overall impact - with the end result an uneven though consistently entertaining effort that never entirely becomes as enthralling as one might've hoped.
About the DVDs: Numb and Steel City arrive on DVD courtesy of Peace Arch Entertainment, and while Steel City receives an anamorphically-enhanced transfer, Numb's full-screen (yet letterboxed) transfer is surely quite disappointing. In the realm of special features, Numb's informative featurette and a trailer gallery is outmatched by Steel City's two commentary tracks, deleted scenes, photo gallery, trailer gallery, and short film. It's also worth noting that neither film offers closed captions or subtitles.