‘Better Living Through Chemistry’ flirts with danger, but never goes all-in

Better Living Through Chemistry

Written and directed by Geoff Moore and David Posamentier

USA, 2014

Better Living Through Chemistry flirts with danger from its opening moments, in which a narrator first says that while each of us can’t help everyone, everyone can help someone, and follows it up by saying that our lead character would dismiss that sentiment as fortune-cookie foolishness. That character, portrayed by Sam Rockwell, who grows more Sam Rockwell-esque by the minute here, would be right to do so, but the film he occupies essentially embraces that sentiment, if to a slightly amoral extent. Better Living Through Chemistry is, seemingly, a bit desperate to both occupy the same satiric subgenre as American Beauty and to be so emphatically unique among other American Beauty-esque films that it’s unable to fully achieve either goal in the end.

Rockwell is Douglas Varney, an “authentically nice guy” living
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