Rating: Rated M (sexual references and coarse language)
Jim Carrey is back. He is still mugging to good effect so his fans should be pleased enough. He is also doing some seriousness which he has been trying on and off over the last ten years.
The premiss of Yes Man is the value of self-help motivational methods – but the film, one might say, is self-betterment lite – or, not quite.
Carrey is Carl Allen, divorced, morose, introspective, avoiding everybody including friends, working at a humdrum job – with an irrepressibly optimistic boss who holds Harry Potter and 300 parties where friends (of the geeky variety) dress up as characters, have non-intoxicating refreshments and watch the movies over and over again. He is played very well by New Zealand stand-up comic, Rhys Darby, accent and all. Carl's word is obviously and defintively, 'no'.
Dragged off to a Yes seminar and surrounded by gleeful cheering devotees eager to shout 'yes' at the slightest cue, he finds himself spotlit and he is badgered by the supremely self-confident guru into making a covenant with himself to say 'yes' to everything. The Yes-master is played humorously with sombre panache by Terence Stamp.
Carl is persuaded by his friend to his first 'yes', into giving a lift to a vagrant (who tells him that hanging around this Yes auditorium gets him more lifts and gifts than he used to get). This hard-expressed initial 'yes' leads him on a zany and unpredictable emotional journey that, of course, changes his life (even to his being arrested as a terrorist and interrogated by programmed agents with paranoid presuppositions – except that he, utimately, has to learn to use his common sense when he has to say 'no'. And that doesn't come easily.
This kind of story lends itself to a series of funny episodes rather than a real plot, so one just has to along with Carl for the ride, some hit, som miss experiences, until he realises what life is meant to be, happy, giving and loving. Zooey Deschanel is the kooky singer, photographer, jogger that he encounters and...., of course.
Though written before the current financial crises, the screenplay has Carl as a loans approval officer at a bank. No trouble in saying 'no'. When he has to say 'yes', he approves small loans for people to be able to buy things they want/need. And, his superior says, 98% of them are faithful in repaying loans. There must be some message there about doing good rather than doing greed for the increasing number of discredited financiers these days.
Village Roadshow Out January 1
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.