Director: Steven Soderbergh; Writer: Jason Reitman; Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Rachel Weisz, Tilda Swinton
Please forgive any typos that may appear in this review, but I just walked out of The Middle Man two hours ago and my hands are still shaking! How can I even begin to describe the experience of seeing The Middle Man on the big screen? Well, for starters, there was the screen. It is a big screen. Like, incredibly huge. I mean, I went into it knowing that it was going to be a big screen, bigger certainly than a cellphone screen or an iPad screen or even most average home television screens. But nothing prepared me for this! Imagine the biggest TV you’ve ever seen in your entire life—this is like a hundred times bigger than that! And if that’s not enough, it’s flanked with these gorgeous red velvet curtains with all these luxuriant drapes and folds—and you have to picture, these curtains are like thirty feet long, so we’re talking about maybe ten yards of fabric here, per curtain, so that’s maybe $2,000 worth of velvet, just for the curtains. And worth every penny, trust me.
As you might expect, I watched The Middle Man while seated. But I wasn’t sitting in a straight-backed chair or on a rough-hewn bench, I can tell you that! No, here’s where The Middle Man really delivered, with plush, oversized seats that actually reclined. Fear not, penny-pinchers: the fold-down armrests are included in the price of the ticket!
A word of warning: the theater is quite dark. It’s much darker than the average person keeps their living room, even when viewing films at home, and it’s certainly much darker than pretty much any other commonly frequented public space. Be advised to move safely around the theater and to keep aisles clear at all times.
Now I know what you’re thinking—she’s raved about the screens, the curtains, the seats (and did I mention they have snacks?!) but what about the film itself? Readers, I’m glad you asked. The Middle Man was simply astounding.
The sparkling dialogue alone was more than worth the price of admission. I don’t know about you, but whenever I have conversations with my friends, there are plenty of “likes” and “ums” and awkward pauses, and most of the time even when we do get the words out right, all we’re really saying is boring stuff about our jobs and our insurance premiums and what is or is not affecting our seasonal allergies. But pretty much every word that was said by any character in The Middle Man was clever and important, and delivered so clearly, too, just incredibly sharp and witty and well-enunciated. Whenever anyone insulted someone else, or made a sexual innuendo or a veiled threat, the other person would immediately respond with something just completely apropos and off-the-cuff. I wish my friends were like that!
And, while it may be unprofessional to say so, may I add that the actors delivering the lines were all very good-looking? Sure, sometimes they might appear disheveled or drunken or bloodied or dead, but even then, they were somehow still quite good-looking. I know it sounds unrealistic, but somehow, when it’s on that giant screen, you totally buy it.
But trust me, The Middle Man is not all talk—it’s also non-stop action! Do you know how in your daily life, a lot of things just sort of happen but don’t really lead anywhere? Like, maybe you meet your future wife, and you fall in love, and you get married, but in between you also buy a bird and get your oil changed and have strep throat and watch Hoarders? The Middle Man is nothing like that. Every single scene is a meaningful part of the main character’s life, from graduating law school to finding his fiancée mysteriously poisoned to hijacking a chartered plane. Even things that seem sort of trivial and meaningless at first, like the main character stopping to give a dollar to a panhandler on the subway platform—spoiler alert! —turn out to have an important meaning in the end. There’s also music playing all the time, which sounds distracting but it isn’t—in fact, the mood of the music perfectly complements the mood of the scene. And the sound! It’s very loud, but also very clear, like sitting inside a giant silver bell.
In conclusion, The Middle Man is a can’t-miss film. The only thing that could possibly have made it better would be if it were somehow possible to view it with an additional dimension, but of course, that’s absurd.
Summer Block has published essays, short fiction, and poetry in McSweeneys, The Rumpus, Identity Theory, DIAGRAM, PANK, The Nervous Breakdown, and many other publications.