The Dilemma Review

the dilemma reviewThe Dilemma is what happens when too many talented people are stuck writing a movie intended to be “mass market.” The characters and emotion are real, but Director Ron Howard and Writer Allan Loeb are trying to stick a dramatic film into the flimsy framework of a modern romantic/bromantic comedy. The result is a dilemma itself: do we forgive The Dilemma for being a comedy that’s too serious or a drama that skimps on the details for a few laughs?

The setup

What would you do if you caught your best friend’s wife having an affair? It’s a tough situation. You could confront your friend and tell him the bad news; you could try to talk to his wife first; you could try and get proof; you could just ignore it. There are a lot of options, but I’m betting you think you’d just tell your friend the bad news. Well, what if you and your best friend are in business together and about to give the presentation that could make or break your careers? If you tell your friend, it could ruin his state of mind, and ruin the deal. This is Ronny Valentine’s (Vince Vaughn’s) dilemma.

Ronny Valentine has always idolized the relationship between his best friend Nick Brannon (Kevin James) and his wife Geneva (Winona Ryder). Ronny’s taken the long road and had some setbacks, but is finally ready to settle down with his girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Connelly). He has it all planned out: he’s going to propose in a fancy garden at a hotel with some smooth grooves playing from his iPod; it’s going to be amazing. He even has Herbert Trimpy, played by Howard’s brother Clint Howard, on call to help him make the moment extra special. But just as he begins assessing his space, he accidentally catches a glimpse of Geneva making out with another man. And not just any man: a guy named “Zip,” played by Channing Tatum, who seems to capture the hearts of ladies in every film by looking like he just flew back from active combat.

Ronny considers telling Nick about Geneva’s loose lips immediately, but holds off, afraid that it might distract his partner. You see, the two of them have just started a new automotive design business together. Nick is the brains and Ronny does the talking. But without focus and a clear head, Nick might not make the many arbitrary deadlines in the days ahead and their big deal with General Motors might fall through. The deal: to make an electric car sound like a muscle car…dumb, I know. Basically, they need to stick a giant subwoofer and speaker into the hood of a new car, but you’d think they were building the car from scratch with all the setbacks and smoke.

Bad business, good characters

The entire business aspect of The Dilemma is paper thin. It’s there to add another layer of doubt to Ronny’s situation and provide the deadlines the plot needs to trudge forward. Queen Latifah even joins the fun in scenes here and there. With no real role to play, she mostly pals up to the guys and tries to provide inspiration, but she feels more like a leftover from a script that tried to evolve after contracts were signed. Fortunately, though Latifah’s character has no depth, the rest of the gang is surprisingly interesting.


Ronny: Vince Vaughn plays his normal fast-talking, quick-witted self and pulls in all the laughs in the film, but he has a maturity to him that we haven’t seen before. As much as he fights it, Vaughn is getting older and growing up. Though he still makes us smile, mostly we feel for Ronny. He’s stuck between that metaphorical rock and hard place. He makes some terrible decisions, but does so out of love for Nick and respect for his marriage.

Geneva: Ryder is cunning and supremely manipulative as Geneva. When confronted by Ronny, she shows a faint fear, but is frighteningly cold when defending her infidelity. As she did in Black Swan, Ryder shows she is more than a capable actress. If only she had more opportunities like this to show her range.

Beth: Then there’s Beth. She cares for Ronny more than he’ll let her. Connelly has certainly come a long way since Labrynth. Like Ryder, she hasn’t been able to grab many interesting roles in recent years, but you wouldn’t know it from her performance. Beth desperately wants Ronny to open up and let her in, but as much as he thinks he’s ready for marriage, he is routinely unprepared to share his burdens with her.

Nick: Kevin James, well, he plays Kevin James, but with a little more sincerity. He’s there to get upset and work on the car, but he isn’t exactly the lovable goof we’re used to seeing. Paul Blart makes no appearances in The Dilemma.

Zip: Hell, even Channing Tatum’s character is more fascinating and unpredictable than you may imagine. Sure, he looks like a meat head, but he’s just as much a victim as anybody.

Not a comedy, but not a bad movie


Does this sound like a situational comedy to you? The problem with The Dilemma is the same problem Allen Loeb’s last comedy, The Switch, had. That film has Jason Bateman meeting his son for the first time after seven years. Both films have a remarkable emotional core that’s quite touching, but both are confined by studio formulas that demand that romantic comedies have less depth than their tagline. Loeb is skilled at bringing depth out of flat ideas and instilling his scripts with a very touching resonance, but he needs to be set free.

Ron Howard is in much the same boat. He’s too good a director to make a comedy out of this film, but is trapped by the genre Universal assigned this film. Yet, somehow Howard manages to capture Vaughn’s energy and harness it for more than comedy. He uses an interesting flashback technique to enhance the intensity of Vaughn’s monologues. Instead of simply letting him ramble, Howard shows us what Ronny is speed-talking about as he’s doing it. It is both funny, like when he makes up a story about helping some fat kids get a ball to explain his encounter with a poisonous plant, and haunting, like when he looks at Geneva and continually sees a flashback of her kissing Zip.


I cannot recommend The Dilemma if you are looking to have a lighthearted evening. It has some great laughs, but they are few. I can, however, recommend it if you’re hoping to see a good movie about a difficult subject. Unfortunately, The Dilemma comes with some baggage, namely some boring subplots stuck in there for formula’s sake. If you can look past its shortcomings, there’s definite enjoyment to be had. The dilemma is: can you?


Great performances, great directing, and a solid emotional core.


It’s marketed as a comedy, but has few laughs. Aspects of the plot feel forced.

Movies & TV

He created comics, movies, and superheroes. But Stan Lee lived for joy

Stan Lee was a creator, a celebrity, an icon, and beneath it all, a real-life good guy with all the same human qualities that made his superheroes so relatable. And his greatest joy was sharing his creations with the world.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Digital Trends Live

Hip-hop artist Rakeem Miles talks musical upbringing, ‘Dante’s Toys’

Rakeem Miles may be best known for his musical endeavors, but he's looking to change that with his forthcoming animated show. On Monday's DT Daily, we discuss Miles' origins, what drives his passions, his favorite superhero, and more.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (November 2018)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Home Theater

Put your home theater to the test with these spectacular Blu-ray releases

What's the point of having all of that awesome home theater gear if you can't breed a little jealousy in your friends and family? We've put together this list of fantastic Blu-rays that have the goods to drop a few jaws.
Movies & TV

Is the end near for Pied Piper? ‘Silicon Valley’ season 6 delayed, might be the last

Season 6 of Silicon Valley might not premiere until 2020, as HBO has delayed production on the season until summer 2019 due to showrunner Alec Berg's work on another HBO series, Barry. Season 6 could be the final one for the show.
Movies & TV

'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald' will seem muddled to mere muggles

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald brings magizoologist Newt Scamander back for more adventures, but the sequel to 2016's Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes a very deep dive into Potter-verse lore.
Movies & TV

How to watch NFL games online, with or without cable

The NFL's 2018 season is here, and we know you don't want to miss a moment of the action. Our comprehensive streaming guide will show you all the best options to watch the games online so you can make the right choice.
Movies & TV

More cast members join Jordan Peele’s ‘The Twilight Zone’ reboot

Get Out writer and director Jordan Peele is developing and hosting a reboot of the classic sci-fi anthology series The Twilight Zone for CBS All Access, and the cast for the first season is filling out with some familiar faces.
Movies & TV

‘Moonlight’ film studio A24 to produce movies for Apple

Indie movie studio A24 has entered into an agreement to produce films for Apple. The studio is best known for bringing Oscar-winning drama Moonlight to audiences, as well as Room and Ex Machina.
Home Theater

From game consoles to 4K UHD spinners, these are the best Blu-ray players

Streaming may be popular, but the disc isn't dead yet. To get the very best picture and sound quality from your system, you need to be watching Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, and these are the best Blu-ray players you can buy.
Home Theater

What’s new on Amazon Prime Video (December 2018)

Amazon Prime Video adds new titles each month that are available for free to all Prime members. Check out our list to find all the content hitting Amazon Prime Video in November and December 2018, from new original series to classic films.

Remembering Stan Lee, Fantastic Beasts 2 review, Apple goes Hollywood

This week on Between the Streams, we'll discuss the passing of comics and entertainment legend Stan Lee, a spoiler-free review of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Apple's new partnership with indie movie studio A24, and more.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.