Better Living Through Chemistry (2014) Poster

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6/10
Rockwell's charisma elevates this familiar tale.
BrentHankins14 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Have you ever looked around at your life and realized that it didn't turn out the way you thought it would? Sure, everyone has, and while most people would just chalk it up to a healthy dose of reality, small town pharmacist Douglas Varney (Sam Rockwell) is searching for something more. He's not entirely sure what that something is, until a chance meeting with local millionaire's wife Elizabeth (Olivia Wilde) results in the type of mind-blowing, toe-curling sex that he's only dreamed about.

The fact that Doug is married should serve as a major deterrent to this sort of activity, but when his wife (Michelle Monaghan) is a highly competitive cyclist who doles out sex and respect in equal amounts (read: none at all), it's easy to see why this lonely schlub would be driven into the arms of a femme fatale. It doesn't hurt that Doug's place of business gives him unfettered access to a wide array of prescription drugs, and soon he and Elizabeth fall into a steady cycle of psychotropic carnality.

The illicit affair instills a newfound confidence in Doug, and much like Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, he begins to rebel against everything and everyone that has been holding him back all these years. The always charismatic Rockwell radiates cool from every pore as he struts from scene to scene, a cigarette drooping lazily from his lip as he schemes to beat his wife at her own game: a local bike race dubbed the Tour de Woodbury, which she has never lost.

There are a few other side plots, including an ill-conceived murder plot and a surprisingly sweet moment that finds Doug bonding with his troubled, distant 12-year-old son, but the crux of this film is Doug's transformation from put-upon loser to swaggering, cocky bad boy. Rockwell takes the ball and runs with it, and the effective (if underutilized) supporting cast gives him plenty of room to put his own stamp on this familiar story.
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8/10
Nice 'little' movie... "the key to getting ahead is getting started!"
paul-allaer14 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"Better Living Through Chemistry" (2014 release; 92 min.) brings the story of Doug Varney (played by Sam Rockwell), who is stuck in an unhappy marriage, and who has just bought the pharmacy from his father-in-law. One evening, Doug is making house deliveries of prescriptions, and one of those deliveries is to a McMansion, where the doorbell is answered by Elizabeth, a beautiful yet bored and unhappy housewife (played by Olivia Wilde). It's not long before Doug and Elizabeth hit it off, setting Doug on a path of personal discovery. In a parallel story, Doug is dealing with his 12 year old son who is going through a tough stretch himself. To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: first, this is the big screen debut of Geoff Moore and David Posamentier, who co-directed and also co-wrote this original screenplay. Second, this is one of those 'little' indie movies that just could, as the movie doesn't take itself too seriously yet before you know it 90 min. have come and gone. Third, the character of Doug is of course crucial to the success of the movie. Originally schedule to be played by Jeremy Renner (who bowed out due to schedule conflicts), Sam Rockwell, whom we saw excel just last year in "The Way, Way Back", gives a commanding performance as Doug, and basically carries the movie on his shoulders. There are many other smaller choice roles, including of course Olivia Wilde, but check out also Ray Liotta as the husband of Elizabeth (max 15 min. of screen time), and Jane Fonda as herself at the very end (in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it role). Fourth, the movie was filmed in and around Annapolis, MD, which looks just gorgeous. Last but not least, there are a lot of great songs in the movie soundtrack, including Donovan's "Season of the Witch" and lots of indie music. But Queens of the Stone Age's "Better Living Through Chemistry" is NOT in the movie.

This movie opened today without any pre-release fanfare or hype at my local art-house theatre here in Cincinnati. The matinée showing I saw this at was surprisingly well attended, given the low profile of the movie and the simultaneous release on Amazon Instant Video. All that aside, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. "Better Living Through Chemistry" is definitely worth checking out, be it in the theater, on DVD or on Amazon Instant Video.
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6/10
Nothing Special, But Still Fun
gavin694221 January 2015
A strait-laced pharmacist's uneventful life spirals out of control when he starts an affair with a trophy-wife customer who takes him on a joyride involving sex, drugs and possibly murder.

This film comes across as your standard indie comedy with a solid cast. Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell and Ray Liotta, to name a few. Maybe not quite A-list, but all well-established actors in their own right with plenty of talent. Through in a cameo by Ben Schwartz, who is definitely moving up in the world, and you have a strong ensemble.

The film is good, too, with plenty of subtle humor, of a dark nature, and just enough quirkiness to appease the target audience. Maybe not quite funny enough to recommend, but worth the time it takes to watch.
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7/10
Good flick!
jkt20062 June 2014
Well, I enjoyed this one thoroughly. One, there was rarely a boring moment, it didn't give me enough time to ponder about what next? Two, the performances by both Sam and Olivia were convincing and enjoyable, especially Sam. Once in a while what one needs is pure entertainment(not nonsensical though!) and this one provides the right thrills and entertainment in one go. Olivia Wilde is exactly that, just wild in the movie and has a wonderful screen presence. The chemistry between the two is great too, and you wish they had more scenes together. I gave it a 7 for I had a good time watching it and would recommend it for an evening watch.
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7/10
Starting up
kosmasp14 August 2014
If you never start, you'll never finish. Makes sense, also if you don't break out, you'll stay imprisoned. Both those things do apply to our main hero here (played with much gusto by Sam Rockwell, whose presence alone elevates any and every movie). You also get Olivia Wilde who takes her last name literally ... well her character does.

For a "small" movie that is quite an impressive cast that assembles here and it does show on screen. There are a few things that might feel a bit cliché, but that can be attributed to once cynicism or the fact that one has watched too many movies (I'm mainly talking about myself here). But even through all this the movie has heart and does keep you guessing and rooting for the main (naive) guy ... Sam Rockwell can do that to you (the character he's playing).
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7/10
Positive truthful movie
Nafiganado29 August 2014
Protagonist is a positive person, which is an under-heel-guy, doing everything to please his wife and her parents. Very common situation.

In some moment another woman pushes him in right direction to change: to become a free-spirit person and start taking care about himself. Of course, it was not a very healthy way - meaning there were some drugs involved. But again, the situation shown is quite truthful: if we want good changes - sometimes it's not possible to do EVERYTHING right all the way, agree? Of course, there are some lucky coincidences which help our main character to come out clean from all the problems finally. But once more: haven't you ever had situations in your life, when you are very close to get into troubles when trying to make things better and finally as a reward for all your trials you are saved in some magic way? :) All in all, this movie is very positive. It let you dream when watching it, but easily gets you back to reality when it ends. With pleasant thoughts.
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9/10
Better than many "big" movies out there
anthonyctho14 April 2014
Here is an example of a simple story told in a such a great way. Sam and Norbert did a great job I think. Although I am still not a fan seeing adults curse in front of the kids on screen but I guess it slowly become normal nowadays.

Sad thing is I met many men and women and they mostly go through the same similar crisis as they do in this movie. I am not an expert or anything but it feels authentic in this film. What would you do if your wife disrespect you in front of other people in public? Or what would you say if your husband always so passive? As it says at the end sometimes only you can help yourself.
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8/10
You need to take chances in life, or you won't live, but how far will Doug go?
face-819-93372614 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Much better than Breakfast of Champions, and more mature than a Hunter S. Thompson romp, though with all of the paranoia. Poor Doug. As usual Sam Rockwell is able to be all things in one people, taking Doug from zero to hero and back and forth across the blurring lines like a master. With no spine, and bullies in all directions all Doug needed was that little push, and Wilde is just the right level of force to make it possible to care about Doug even while watching him go from the guy who judges the junkies to just another one himself. The entire movie is narrated spectacularly by Jane Fonda, and the final reveal/payoff is worth it even if it is so telegraphed.(she's holding the box people ;) ) I really fond a lot of heart in this movie especially between the father, and Son as they build a bond that many of us will envy. I recommend this movie completely, there is some language, and a very adult story line, but for the most part it is harmless humour, and ironic things that just happen.
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7/10
Some bright spots
tonymustam318 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
It takes a while to build some steam, but there are bright spots. The story doesn't make a great deal of sense, but the setting is beautiful and the story unfolds in an intimate way that got me invested in Sam Rockwell's character. Ray Liotta is a plus and Ron Heneghan is excellent as the police officer. Rockwell and Heneghan in the school classroom is a marvelous piece of writing and acting, perhaps the movie's best moment. Ken Howard adds some heft as the father-in-law, but Michele Monaghan is disappointing as Rockwell's wife. Her character is shallow and she never grabs the audience one way or the other. I found Jane Fonda's narration to be choppy, but Sam Rockwell is engaging and inspiring. Definitely worth seeing.
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8/10
High on drugs
TheOneThatYouWanted22 August 2017
Yeah, this is going to sound strange but this is the type of film you watch more so for the actors than for the actual plot or film. You'll watch this because you know it has Sam Rockwell and this is a comedy and he will be acting like a wild man in it. You'll watch this because you know it has Olivia Wilde in it and you still have a crush on her. No, this is not the funniest thing you're going to watch this year and it has hiccups and isn't perfect but it is fun, especially once it Rockwell's characters starts getting high off his own supply. 7/10 type of deal but I'm rounding up a point just to offset the main score a bit.
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10/10
Best movie I have seen in a while!
k-binkys12 May 2014
This romantic comedy was extraordinary.

The plot twists were not clichéd.

Sam Rockwell and Olivia Wilde were fantastic. Just a pure gold acting performance. Ray Liotta acting as a nice guy was quite odd to watch, but also exciting, he really did the job well. And the whole acting crew in general did not mess up in general, very entertaining.

I really enjoyed my time watching the movie. And maybe would like to re-watch it again in the future(which I practically never do). If you are looking for a cheerful, fascinating time,the suggestion is, watch the movie.

I would recommend this movie for anyone. Thumbs up! If it is possible that somebody from the movie crew is reading this, then, thank you for the ecstatic 91 minutes.
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5/10
Watchable on a rainy, boring night
bob-larrance14 March 2014
Sam Rockwell has done some really great work. Not here, but he has, trust me. Ditto Michelle Monaghan, Olivia Wilde and Ray Liotta. And, let me be clear when I tell you that they try very hard to make this a nice little comedy. Sadly, all their hard work is pretty much wasted, and combined with the unnecessary Jane Fonda Narration I found Better Living Through Chemistry to be one of those movies you might watch some rainy, boring night - one of those nights when this is the only possible choice.

Rotten weather tonight? Seen every episode of Two Broke Girls at least twice? Need to save your gray matter for tomorrow's presentation? Great! This is a movie for you.

I think that the below average production really detracts from the film. There is something 'funky' about the sound and the filming is just a little bit off, like it was filmed half digital/half Eastman Kodak. No need for me to be more specific, you will notice. Trust me, again.

Another negative is knowing how much you have enjoyed the leads in the past. Consider Rockwell in Moon, or Monaghan in True Detective, two very strong performances. Rockwell in this movie comes off more like the new Rick Moranis (Honey, I drugged the kids) and I don't recall ever seeing Michelle so tired around the edges. I mentioned that they work hard, right?

This is not some comedic breakthrough, by the way. I do believe it has all been done before, thematically.

Though this is a film about a pharmacist, there is nothing new in this comedy as far as concepts or gags. You have seen it all before. The script isn't at all fresh, a real problem for me. It even has the oddball kid, you know the one that is going his own way or words to that effect. The core concepts that are supposed to work and make us laugh just don't work often enough.

I don't know if this ever made it to the theaters, or went straight to video. If it was in general release it is impossible for me to imagine it generating the sort of buzz to attract many folks to the old movie house.

However, it is watchable. Sound odd? Not really, just don't expect much. And, don't worry about pausing when you need a quick trip to the john, you won't miss much and no new techniques will be introduced.

Trust me.
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6/10
Good story, but not funny at all
sjd91214 March 2014
This movie strikes at some interesting subjects as a dramedy, but besides a couple of nice twists, it offers nothing to enjoy. It never really picks up a pace, hasn't got more than 2 or 3 funny moments, so basically it's like a very light drama. The main storyline featuring the protagonist, who learns how to stand up for himself, is not the most original one, but is written well, and would have worked well in a comedy with actual jokes. But this way it's more like a corny and shallow drama. The actors are doing a great job, especially Rockwell and Monaghan, but it's all for nothing. Basically this movie isn't satisfying as a comedy nor as a drama.
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Is life better through chemistry?
Gordon-1116 March 2014
This film tells the story of a suburban pharmacist undergoing a midlife crisis. His life spirals out of control when he meets a beautiful female customer.

"Better Living Through Chemistry" spends an adequate amount of time building up a picture of Douglas' the unpleasant life. He is constantly undermined by his loved ones, and it does not feel great to be him. I feel for him, and I think Sam Rockwell does well in making me care for his character. Douglas' life changes quickly after Elizabeth arrives, some for the better and some for the worse. There is much food for thought, especially whether life is better through chemistry. The build up of the policeman plus DEA agent encounter is well done as well! It really got the character and me as well. I enjoy watching "Better Living Through Chemistry" a lot, as it gives people bits to chew on, reflecting on their own lives.
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9/10
Great movie overlooked by the mainstream
chaz72275 February 2016
I have to say I am a big Sam Rockwell fan so might be a bit biased but this movie was so much better than what I expected. The whole underdog or bad guy story played out very well. I am happy to see Sam Rockwell and some of the other not so known actors at this time Olivia what an incredible actress getting a great part in a great movie. The fact that many people did not see or know of this move goes to the whole hype based Hollywood BS machine.

One of the greatest lines period in all of the recent movies you have seen...I'm here to bake a Red Velvet Cake just classic when he said that at that moment just so fricken funny and so Sam great stuff!!!

Well written with great performances from all involved no matter what you sheeple think!
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8/10
Why is bike racing even a sport?
oscaralbert19 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I mean, wheel barrows have little round things on the bottom, and so do riding mowers. I've used a surveyor's wheel to measure a 10K course for REAL racers. At one time I had a red wagon (though I think it may have rusted out). Teamsters use all manner of dollies to move freight. Guys are pulling their campers around to catch more shade all the time, and you sometimes see people maneuvering their boat trailers by hand at the landings. Most of the larger outdoor grills are on wheels nowadays, as is much of the business luggage rolling through our airports. Many large office machines, such as copiers, and kitchen appliances (refrigerators, for example) come with their own set of built-in wheels; ditto antique desks and china cabinets. When is the last time you've observed people "racing" any of the wheeled objects on the above list? Bicycles were invented to make it more relaxing to circle a park on a weekend afternoon. Though that drug-crazed Texas sociopath Lance Armstrong has tried to spoil all of that, it's time for bikers to return to their roots. The main character of BETTER LIVING THROUGH CHEMISTRY, pharmacist "Doug Varney" (played by Sam Rockwell), almost lets himself get sucked down Armstrong's brimstone path, concocting a bike racing drug more effective than any Lance used. However, Doug eventually comes to his senses before it's too late, and eradicates the bike crazies from his life to ACTUALLY achieve "better living."
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6/10
BACK IN THE NEW YORK GROOVE
nogodnomasters11 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers
In a small idyllic town, the village pharmacist knows everyone's secrets. Doug Varney (Sam Rockwell) has a fitness compulsive wife (Michelle Monaghan) an unruly child (Harrison Holzer) and an irritating narrator (Jane Fonda). Stuck in a rut he meets rich wife Elizabeth (Olivia Wilde) who breaks Doug out and instills confidence in him through an affair and pills.

The film reminded me of a generic Magnolia indie. Let's throw together some quirky characters, get a couple of names, create an unlikely scenario, toss in a few cliches, an appropriate sound track and stir. There was nothing overly entertaining in the film, yet at the same time I wasn't bored waiting for something to happen. For those who can't get enough of the clever and quirky indies, you might get a quick fix from this film.

Parental Guide: F-bomb. Sex.
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Amateur Hour
tieman6423 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
A dull and unfunny comedy by director David Posamentier, "Better Living Through Chemistry" stars Sam Rockwell as a small town pharmacist who has an affair with the zany wife (Olivia Wilde) of a customer. She rescues him from his humdrum existence, we yawn with disinterest.

Rockwell usually elevates whatever film he's in, but even he can't do much with "Chemistry". Bloated, poorly written, needlessly narrated and overly proud of its ironies (a pharmacist who can cure everyone but himself), "Better Living Through Chemistry" is almost unwatchable. Ray Liotta co-stars.

2/10 - Worth no viewings.
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1/10
Tripe
robtaday11 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Another to add to the list of recent films about grown folks you just don't want to grow up. Here again you have a guy who seemingly has it all: career, home and family but it just is not enough. I mean, so what if you have a wife, kids, RESPONSIBILITY. There is a whole world out there just waiting for you and after all, it is YOUR happiness that counts. If YOU cannot be happy, then how can you make anyone else happy? So of course your kid, who is desperately crying out for help (and a father figure) will be "better off" if you abandon the family home to "find yourself." And cheating on your wife, well, that's cool too because, well, just because it is, damn it! And considering murdering your mistress' husband so the two of you can run off together is cool too. Again, never mind you have a 12- year old son in crisis mode. So, you allow yourself to become addicted to drugs because that is what your mistress likes and it does make sex so much more fun, particularly if you are a pharmacist who can whip things up right in the lab. But then, just as easily you apparently kick your drug habit and allow some other schmuck to take the rap for your felonious drug crimes. All a bunch of tripe that I suppose somebody can identify with or rather, too bad so many people probably will identify with.
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5/10
Not Bad
sami_addam23 March 2014
"Better Living Through Chemistry" (2014 release; 92 min.) brings the story of Doug Varney (played by Sam Rockwell), who is stuck in an unhappy marriage, and who has just bought the pharmacy from his father- in-law. One evening, Doug is making house deliveries of prescriptions, and one of those deliveries is to a McMansion, where the doorbell is answered by Elizabeth, a beautiful yet bored and unhappy housewife (played by Olivia Wilde). It's not long before Doug and Elizabeth hit it off, setting Doug on a path of personal discovery. In a parallel story, Doug is dealing with his 12 year old son who is going through a tough stretch himself. To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
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5/10
It's all about Sam Rockwell in this one.
troyputland3 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
If a movie lacks a certain buzz or thrill, Sam Rockwell can be relied upon to sugar-coat the mess. Better Living Through Chemistry feels bogged down, even when on the surface the plot's intact. Rockwell saves the day, turning a boring character and his day-to-day routine into a life of revelry. His wife's (Michelle Monaghan) portrayed as a spiteful person, their relationship's hitting rock bottom. She's purposely cold and nasty, making the pharmaceutical nice-man the one to relate to, subconsciously pushing our opinions of them down a narrow path. Rockwell's life is spun 180 degrees when he meets Olivia Wilde's wealthy drug addict. They commit adultery on their respective partners, take advantage of Rockwell's medicinal knowledge and inventory, and plot murder. Out of character motives. But it is Sam Rockwell, doing what he does best: engage and amuse. Olivia Wilde's character is flat. Her forte lies in other M.O's. Ray Liotta is Wilde's unsuspecting husband, whose screen time barely reaches five minutes. Jane Fonda's voice-over, accompanying Rockwell's story, is pointless, other than to tell us she was/is one of his customers. If it weren't for Rockwell's class acting, Better Living Through Chemistry would be one to avoid.
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6/10
Watching and fun
dar04171 September 2020
When all said done it turns out all the characters in this film are just jerks. Film is watchable and entertaining.
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8/10
Every pharmacist should watch it
raniao-174763 July 2020
Every pharmacist should watch this movie it's so interesting and funny
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6/10
Why the hell is Jane Fonda narrating everything?
anitamcgill13 April 2020
Apart from the tonal dissonance, I'd say this is a relatively enjoyable movie and I would've probably given an extra star if they had ditched the narration.
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7/10
my notes
FeastMode24 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Started off slow but turned into a very interesting and fun story. had some very memorable and hilarious parts and a good story.. sam rockwell is an amazing actor. he is so convincing and makes you root for him even when you shouldn't (2 viewings)

SPOILERS

it had a fitting conclusion
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