The Ex reminds me of a 1980s comedy, but maybe not. Maybe more a 1990s comedy. I knew it did, but I couldn’t figure out why, until I realized it’s all about the information given the viewer. The Ex starts in New York and moves to Ohio in the first seven and a half minutes and there’s no establishing and no confusion. Regardless of the title and the trailer–the film’s original title, Fast Track, is better but not quite right either–the film doesn’t have a gimmick. It’s a slight, amusing comedy about a couple orienting themselves with a baby. I wasn’t expecting Amanda Peet to be in the film much as a lead, but she and Braff are really partners. Their days are juxtaposed and The Ex has got a really nice present action too–it takes place over about a week. Five days, not seven.
As a leading comedic actor, Zach Braff is amazing. I’ve never seen him in anything before (I tried watching “Scrubs,” but after five minutes I was dislocating my shoulder going for the remote) but from the first second, he runs this film. I can’t even think of a comparable leading comedic actor (except maybe late 1970s Chevy Chase). It’s a joy to watch him. But then Peet shows up and she’s got her own thing going and she’s fantastic too. I always say how much I like her but before The Ex, I’d only seen her in two things. Now it’s three. They’re perfect together.
Jason Bateman. Remember when one thought “The Hogan Family” hearing his name? Now, it’d be “Arrested Development.” It’s never going to be The Ex one thinks about, but it’s going to be something in the future. Bateman acts with this ease and self-assurance–it’s like a comedic De Niro (back when De Niro was good).
Maybe the performances are why The Ex works as well as it does. Charles Grodin shows up as Peet’s father and he’s got some funny moments, but mostly it’s just a Charles Grodin supporting role. Donal Logue’s funny in his bit. But the three leads command the viewer’s attention like leads are supposed to command a viewer’s attention.
The Ex is so fleet-footed it races past some bad traditional comedy snags, but also some requisite storytelling ones. A lot is inferred in a few moments, including things like character motivation. I think the filmmakers realized it too, because they take care of it real quick at the end.
I’d complain it should go longer, but the film’s thin–it has maybe three subplots, with one of them contributing heavily to the main action–and it gets out at just the right time.
Directed by Jesse Peretz; written by David Guion and Michael Handelman; director of photography, Tom Richmond; edited by Tricia Cooke, Jeff McEvoy and John Michel; music by Ed Shearmur; production designer, John Paino; produced by Anthony Bergman, Marc Butan, Anne Carey and Ted Hope; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Starring Zach Braff (Tom Reilly), Amanda Peet (Sofia Kowalski), Jason Bateman (Chip Sanders), Charles Grodin (Bob Kowalski), Mia Farrow (Amelia Kowalski), Donal Logue (Don Wollebin) and Amy Poehler (Carol Lane).