March 14, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: 'Better Living' lacks sense of chemistry

Olivia Wilde and Sam Rockwell star as people attracted to each other and drugs in the comedy drama 'Better Living Through Chemistry.' (Sameul Goldwyn Films)

The problem with “Better Living Through Chemistry” is you don’t believe it for a minute.

And that can probably be traced directly to first-time writer-directors Geoff Moore and David Posamentier. They oversell the jokes and the characters too much of the time while still shooting for some sense of sympathy. It just doesn’t work.

Sam Rockwell stars as Doug Varney, a small town pharmacist whose wife (Michelle Monaghan) is a dominating harpy, whose father-in-law (Ken Howard) constantly berates him and whose adolescent son (Harrison Holzer) is an insolent train wreck. Doug, being a stereotypical milquetoast, accepts it all, even when his own employee (Ben Schwartz) cons him.

Then one night Doug delivers some prescriptions to the mansion of a beautiful woman named Elizabeth Roberts (Olivia Wilde). Lonely despite her wealthy husband (Ray Liotta), Elizabeth is seriously into self-medicating and comes on to Doug. Why Doug? No clear answer to that one.

He resists the first time around but eventually gives in to her charms, and soon enough she has introduced him to all the joys of popping pills and downing booze. Doug goes from wuss to wild man in record time, but no one seems to notice.

Soon enough, Doug is whipping up his own narcotic concoctions and the partying keeps getting wilder, despite visits from a DEA agent that portend a dark future. Eventually Doug and Elizabeth start considering how they could get the money together to run off and travel the world. If only her husband would die ...

By the time the film gets to its ridiculous stretch of an ending, we’ve all seen the great fun to be had with drugs while also learning of their danger. How convenient. How empty.

'Better Living Through Chemistry'


Not rated

Running time: 92 minutes

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