Note to studios: Please do not package dark comedy-dramas as “rom-coms”, thereby dooming them to small releases and ultimate failure. Such was the case in 2005 with the gem The Upside of Anger, and such is the case now with Dedication.
In fact, why is it that dark, funny, sarcastic films wherein people fall in love need to be categorized at all? After all, I’m dark, sometimes funny, and most times sarcastic, and I’m also married, yet my life is not a “rom-com”. But I digress…
Dedication, which is in the vein of both Garden State and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, revolves around Henry (portrayed by Billy Crudup), an OCD-plagued writer who achieved success when he and his illustrator partner, Rudy (played brilliantly by Tom Wilkinson, who in my opinion is always brilliant — if in doubt, watch In The Bedroom), created a beloved children's book character.
Unfortunately, Rudy passes away (no spoiler here, as this fact is even included on the back of the DVD cover case), leaving Henry both friendless and without his creative partnership, yet facing a contractual deadline from his publisher. In steps illustrator Lucy (played by the dark-tressed Mandy Moore) to help finish the project, much to Henry’s dismay.
While Henry goes out of his way to drive Lucy away, she manages to break through his façade and they begin to learn from and about each other, realizing they are more similar than they thought.
For those who will immediately pass on seeing this film based on Moore’s involvement, you’re missing out. Moore has taken her talent to the next level, leaving her pop stardom behind and in the process has grown into a complex actor, also leaving her contemporary counterparts (Lindsay, Paris, Britney, et al) to flounder in the gossip spotlight while Moore quietly amasses an impressive acting career.
In addition to being an edgy film, due in part to the director's cuts and camera work, Dedication has a soundtrack (by Deerhoof) to rival that of Garden State, and is also the directorial debut of actor Justin Theroux (he played the Irish bad guy in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, as well as a love interest for Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City).
Dedication is gritty, dark, and at times funny, but is not really romantic in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, it’s about what happens when your heart gets broken, and how hard it is to trust and let someone in again. It’s a modern love story, with the emphasis on modern.