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Review: J.K. Simmons and Co. cannot elevate contrived ‘I’m Not Here’

Review: J.K. Simmons and Co. cannot elevate contrived ‘I’m Not Here’
J.K. Simmons in the movie "I'm Not Here." (Gravitas Ventures)

Physics and philosophy collide in “I’m Not Here,” a dour drama that lacks depth despite all its good intentions. Michelle Schumacher directs her Oscar-winning husband, J.K. Simmons, and surrounds him with a strong supporting cast, but on-screen talent can’t overcome the contrived script.

Simmons stars as Steve, an alcoholic who spends his 60th birthday in an empty apartment, where everything reminds him of his experiences as a child (played by Iain Armitage) and a young man (Sebastian Stan). He relives days with his parents (Mandy Moore and Max Greenfield), as well as time spent with his wife, Karen (Maika Monroe), and young son Trevor (Jeremy Maguire).

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In between twitchy edits, “I’m Not Here” parses out details on how Steve got to rock bottom — and how he might get out. Simmons and the talented cast embody authentic emotions in some truly wrenching scenes, but their performances happen among plot points and dialogue that feel inorganic. The movie’s final moments — seen in a post-credits scene — offer a forgiving balm to Steve’s painful present, but it feels out of place amid the preceding 80 minutes.

The basic premise of Schumacher and Tony Cummings’ screenplay is thought-provoking and ambitious, but its execution is ultimately flawed and flat, particularly in its editing and production. The audience is likely to leave “I’m Not Here” thinking more about the film’s own issues than about the big questions it raises.

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‘I’m Not Here’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes

Playing: Starts March 8, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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