Sam Rockwell is one of the greatest actors of his generation. Yet Rockwell normally finds himself starring in a bunch of independent films (except for the occasional adventures into blockbuster cinema as a villain such as in Charlie’s Angels or Iron Man 2). Sadly, this causes him to remain in relative obscurity to the general public despite his great talents. His latest film, Better Living Through Chemistry, is another example of this. The film is small enough and a little too formulaic to attract many eyeballs despite Sam Rockwell and the cast delivering.
Better Living Through Chemistry follows Doug (Sam Rockwell), who finds his work as a pharmacist and his life at home with his peculiar son (Harrison Holzer) and domineering wife (Michelle Monaghan) slowly draining whatever he had to live for. When he meets Elizabeth (Olivia Wilde), however, he begins to take a rocky road in his attempt to find some excitement. The film is directed and written by Geoff Moore and David Posamentier (both doing their first work on film).
I think that the work that Geoff Moore and David Posamentier do on this film is a little too conventional to be considered good. Sure, there is a sense of charm in this film that makes it work, but I think the actors deserve a lot of the credit for that. Otherwise, the story that this film tells is one we have seen a thousand times before (a man trying to find his mojo again at the risk of ruining his life), and it’s done in such a way that it adds absolutely nothing to the idea.
Fortunately, the cast that Moore and Posamentier are able to bring together is outstanding. Sam Rockwell once again brings so much to a role that really would have had trouble standing out in the hands of someone else. Doug can be a despicable character but Rockwell makes sure that you are always rooting for him. Additionally, his two leading ladies make quite a presence in thinly written roles. Olivia Wilde is really just playing the hot, mysterious woman, but she somehow finds a way to add a real sense of vulnerability to the character. Meanwhile, Michelle Monaghan somehow finds a way to make such a caricature of a wife character a lot more inoffensive than it could have been.
Better Living Through Chemistry has a lot of issues and is a little too conventional, but its strong cast makes it work in the end.