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Review: ‘If I Were You’ is strained, absurd marital farce

Review: ‘If I Were You’ is strained, absurd marital farce
(“If I Were You”)

The press notes for “If I Were You” indicate that writer-director Joan Carr-Wiggin’s favorite director is Preston Sturges, but there’s little of the master’s zip, wit or taste for desperate absurdity in this ill-conceived marital farce.

Moments after discovering her husband is cheating — unbeknown to him — Madelyn (Marcia Gay Harden) follows the distraught mistress (Leonor Watling) home, saves her from suicide, then befriends her as a way of keeping tabs on the affair.

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To complicate matters, Madelyn, who is also grappling with her mother’s terminal illness, lands the role of King Lear in a local play, the same production in which Watling’s character plays the fool.

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This is Nancy Meyers territory, but leaden with passé observations about lovelorn women — Watling’s failed-actress character reads pathetic rather than screwball-kooky — and hardly ebullient as either oddball-pair comedy or housewife-revenge fantasy.

Harden is a wonderful actress but struggles to find the complexity in so strained a situation.

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“If I Were You.”

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MPAA rating: R for language/sexual references.

Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

At selected theaters.

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