Social Animals follows Noël Wells’ Zoe as she finds herself falling for an unhappily married man (Josh Radnor’s Paul), with the movie also detailing the exploits of Zoe’s frustrated friend (Carly Chaikin’s Claire) and Paul’s frazzled wife (Aya Cash’s Jane). It’s clear almost immediately that writer/director Theresa Bennett isn’t looking to explore uncharted territory here, as Social Animals, for the most part, comes off as a been-there-done-that drama that remains unable to capture the viewer’s interest from start to finish – with the hands-off atmosphere compounded by an almost total lack of momentum and a pace that couldn’t possibly be more sluggish. Bennett effectively elicits strong performances from her cast, at least, but the actors’ uniformly stirring work just can’t compensate for a screenplay that’s rife with aggressively familiar elements. The end result is a terminally unfocused endeavor that’s trapped somewhere between the art house and the mainstream, with the picture failing to make much of an impact within either of the two vastly different realms.
** out of ****