Starring: Zach Braff, Jason Bateman, Amanda Peet
Director: Jesse Peretz
Running Time: 89 mins
The Ex is an American film about a man who is forced to take up a job in his wife’s hometown after she leaves her high-profile job after having a baby, but soon meets with a coworker who makes his new life a misery.
This isn’t the most intelligent or original comedy I’ve ever seen, but I have to say that it entertained me nonetheless. With a simple story that gets under your skin in just the way it intends, The Ex is a delightfully irritating comedy with some good laughs here and there and a couple of very enjoyable performances, all of which makes it a surprising joy to watch throughout.
Let’s start off with the film’s story. Following a man who has to become the main breadwinner in his family after his wife needs to take her of their new baby, the story soon evolves into a battle between two men to win favour at their work, as our main man, played by Zach Braff, comes up against an arch nemesis at his new job in the form of Jason Bateman.
You’ve seen this sort of plot before, a man whose life is turned upside down by somebody deliberately evil, and yet nobody around him will believe anything he says. Normally, it’s a premise that proves more irritating than funny, and although The Ex is still a pretty annoying watch, it manages to do that in the right places at the right time, proving just as entertaining as it is deliberately infuriating.
And what makes that work so well in this film is easily the lead performances. Zach Braff is more likable than most occasions here, partly because his performance is a little more mellow than we often see, but also because his nemesis is just so much more horrible, so you can’t help but support him.
Jason Bateman, however, is the real stand-out here, putting in a fantastic turn in a role that he’s proven so adept at (The Gift, Bad Words etc), a seemingly normal and pleasant man with a deeply aggressive and sociopathic mindset. Of course, with his comedic ability, the character is infuriating and horrible in a rather entertaining manner, something that Bateman makes clear from the beginning, in turn hugely helping the film to prove all the more enjoyable.
Those two lead performances are undoubtedly what makes the film work, because although the story is simple enough to prove entertaining regardless of its originality, I have to say that the movie isn’t quite as funny as it wants to be.
While a generally solid piece of filmmaking, with nothing to really criticise outstanding, I felt a little underwhelmed by the lack of properly funny humour here, with most of the attention being lended to watching the battle between the two leads play out over the course of the movie, and little else in the way of big, funny jokes that could have made things a whole lot more entertaining.
The Ex isn’t a bad film, though, and I have to say that I enjoyed myself a whole lot more than I expected at first, thanks to a simple story and two strong lead performances, which is why I’m giving it a 7.3 overall.