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Feature


Numb is a semi auto-biographical story from writer/director Harris Goldberg, the writer of such classics as Without a Paddle and the series that’s screaming for a final chapter in the trilogy, Deuce Biglow (seriously, this really didn't look good on paper). Hudson Milbank (Matthew Perry) is the focus here and we get an insight into the inner turmoil of a man trying to come to terms with a psychological disorder called Depersonalization.

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Hudson is the salesman half of a screenwriting duo and he’s a little disenchanted with life. After taking twelve continuous hits of pot at a friend’s house something clicks and Hudson’s condition really takes hold of his life. He’s depressed, he’s anxious, he watches the golf channel for twenty three hours a day… shrinks either give up on him or prescribe side-effect laden medication.

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This sounds like a set up for some kind of Jim Carrey movie, right? Considering some of the writer’s previous work (which includes The Master of Disguise …ouch) you’d be forgiven for thinking that this isn’t going to turn out well. Thankfully this is quite the unexpected gem. This is not only a personal, heartfelt and honest movie, but it’s actually one of the highlights of my movie year so far.

Numb is just a fine piece of entertainment that has a spine. It has moments of internal desperation in its lead and counters these seamlessly with its humour. Once again Matthew Perry owns every moment of screen time, selling the complexities of his character without you ever losing your affection for him. I’ve been a fan of Perry since the Friends years, I thought he was a blast in the Whole Nine (not Ten) Yards and I even sort of liked him in his most dross attempts at a movie career. However, since Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, the show that immediately became an all time classic in my household, he’s been one to watch in the ‘what will they do next’ department. This is a fine start towards that next step in his career. He brings everything he does well and moulds it into what Goldberg must have found very difficult to hand over to an actor. Perry is perfectly suited to this role, showing the subtleties of a man with a condition and never making it feel contrived or fake—more than that, you just accept it all. Whilst it’s maybe not a performance that would scream for awards or anything, it’s one that feels honest and one you can take into to your heart.

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It doesn’t end there either. The support here is solid as well. Kevin Pollack does his usual reliable best friend/sidekick role (though it has to be said he looked distinctly over-manicured here). Mary Steenburgen takes a step away from her Clara Clayton timid onscreen personality and has fun playing a love struck, sexed up psychologist. Then there’s Lynn Collins. Looking at IMDB she has popped up in small roles in a few films that I’d seen and while I was aware of her upcoming role as Silver Fox in the Wolverine movie, she was still new to me. Her performance here is a delight. It’s one of those performances that scream STAR. Goldberg struck gold her with her in what could have been the thankless ‘love interest’ role and had the savvy to leave the camera on her and watch her subtle performance shine and whilst the dialogue is never bad, she sells it beautifully and makes something that could have fallen flat or felt cliché feel perfectly acceptable. Suffice to say, she now joins that ‘what will they do next?’ list as well.

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Video


Nothing particularly interesting to report here really. This is a low key release that does its job adequately. The director has a good eye for his shots and some of them look great, the lighting is captured well and the picture in general is fine. I didn’t notice anything distracting throughout, nothing excessive on either the impressive or the disappointing side of scale. This is a solid transfer that draws no complaints from me.

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Audio


I actually quite enjoyed the sound mix for Numb. Not for anything particularly noticeable but simply for how straightforward it was. The dialogue is clear and the mix in general, weaves in the songs and score without ever over-powering the moment or feeling like a teen TV drama where the music takes over in the storytelling. The only negative thing that did call attention to itself was a Dandy Warhol’s track that seemed really low in the rear speakers despite it backing up the closest the movie ever got to an action sequence.

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Extras


On offer here is a nice batch of features to compliment the movie itself. The nineteen-minute ‘Inside Look’ is a great little insight into the movie. The director explaining how the movie reflects his own life and the choices he made in the making of the movie and there’s a lot of the makers and cast patting each other on the back for deciding to the make the movie as well as some nice stories about life on set and about specific scenes.

A surprisingly nice addition was the directors commentary. I get sick of seeing UK releases losing commentaries just because it’s an under-the-radar release and while upon receiving the disc I never thought there’d be anything for me in a commentary from the Deuce Bigalow writer, I’ve got to say this was actually pretty interesting. Yes, as it’s a solo effort it falls into pretty much telling you what’s happening on screen as the runtime ticks by, but the first forty odd minutes offers a glimpse into why he wrote the movie and what elements of it reflected what he’d gone through himself. There are some nice stories about his cast and a real feeling of working closely with his crew which all in all he kept my attention throughout.

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Overall


Ignore the silly synopsis that comes with this movie's blurb—they paint it to be some kind of kooky romantic comedy. This movie is not Chandler Bing’s latest adventure. Numb is actually a fine little movie. It’s by no means perfect, but has got some fantastic performances from its cast and Goldberg has a controlled and steady approach to the his own material that suits the movie down to the ground.

I’d imagine that the majority of Numb's potential audience aren’t even aware that the movie exists and it’s a shame. I'll say it again—this is a real gem and is well worth at least a rental. I for one was glad I got the chance to give it a look see.


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