Aardvark (2017) is either too brilliant for me to comprehend or is completely pointless. There is no middle ground here. The back-and-forth visuals of an aardvark and the film’s plot synopsis on IMDb, which reads, “The aardvark has evolved to be one of a kind. You could say the same of Josh Norman,” seems to want me to make an association with the animal and the lead character. What that association is, however, I’m not entirely sure. What I do know is that other than enjoying the three actors that give earnest performances, there wasn’t much else to like in this movie.
Aardvark didn’t do anything for me at all
Josh Norman (Zachary Quinto) has started seeing a new therapist, Emily Milburton (Jenny Slate), who works from her home. He tells her about his brother and his prescriptions, but she ultimately knows nothing about him. His brother, Craig (Jon Hamm), is an actor that Josh claims is able to take on any role. Though, it is hard to tell if it’s Craig’s talent or Josh’s delusions.
Slate, Quinto, and Hamm all seem invested in this movie. None of them are phoning in their performances. In many of the scenes they are in, they aren’t acting like real people. There is a moment late in the film where Josh says something to Emily that makes her have an emotional breakdown. The performance is strong and her tears seem genuine, but the reasons for her tears are bewildering…however, this fits with the film as a whole.
Director and writer Brian Shoaf has crafted a series of scenes that often seem unnecessary or disconnected. Emily goes to seek advice about Josh from her…well, it’s a little unclear actually, but assumably a professor or colleague. However, he’s rude to her, and their argument feels forced just to let us know that Emily is apparently a bit of a “slut”, as she claims he called her. Then, there is the awkward hug with her ex-boyfriend that goes nowhere in the movie. In fact, even some of the more interesting elements of the film really don’t develop into anything of any substance. At one point, Hamm’s character tells Emily that he got a new acting gig, but isn’t taking the job because it’s awful. This line felt oddly meta as if Shoaf was pointing out how crazy it was for the talented actor to have agreed to be apart of this movie.
There really isn’t much of anything positive to say about Aardvark. It was hard to stay interested in the plot, as it felt nonsensical. Even being a fan of the cast wasn’t enough to make the experience enjoyable. The look and tone of the film seems to want us to believe it is a thriller, and that something is going to happen. Unfortunately, the movie left me looking a lot like the manager of the coffee shop did after Josh suddenly quits: bewildered and shocked at the events that just transpired. While Aardvark is now out in select theaters, it gets the Avoid like the Plague rating.