FILM REVIEW – AUGGIE. With Richard Kind, Christen Harper, Susan Blackwell, Simone Policano, Larisa Oleynik. Written by Matt Kane, Marc Underhill. Directed by Matt Kane. Not rated. 81 minutes.
Felix Greystone (Richard Kind) is a middle-aged architect with a wife (Susan Blackwell) and adult daughter (Simone Policano). At the start of AUGGIE, he is being pushed into retirement. As a going-away present he receives a special pair of glasses which augments his perception of the real world by providing him with a “companion” who is invisible to everyone but him. This The film plays like a “Twilight Zone” episode about having to deal with the notion that one is no longer necessary to anyone else.
At first, Felix is skeptical about the glasses, especially when he sees someone seemingly talking to herself. Eventually he tries them on and a beautiful young woman (Christen Harper) appears, who is friendly, supportive, and attuned to Felix’s emotional needs. The fact that she’s a computer construct drawn from his own thoughts and memories falls by the wayside as Felix finds that Auggie, as she is called, fills the hole in his life left after he’s lost his job, his wife is finding new fulfillment in her work, and his work as a parent is done.
There’s a narrative trope of troubled men meeting a lovable pixie of a woman who seem to fulfill their desires and salve their bruised egos. “Auggie” might seem to be going in that direction but what it’s really doing is examining why that notion is so powerful and why men are susceptible to it. Rather than being a sexist fantasy with the woman as a magical creature with no other role except to solve the male protagonist’s problems, the story is about why it has such a powerful allure for men who are broken in one way or another.
Actor/writer Matt Kane makes his feature directing debut here, and he was fortunate to get character actor Richard Kind to take the lead. With his doughy face and hangdog look, Kind, perhaps best known for his comic TV roles (and as the voice of “Bing Bong” in Pixar’s “Inside Out”), is the perfect Everyman. Felix finds himself falling for imaginary Auggie, even buying add-ons that will allow him to experience physical as well as emotional stimulation. He doesn’t mean to be unfaithful, but he finds himself lonely and hurting and this fantasy woman is ready to fulfill his every need. Kind shows us how Felix is drawn deeper and deeper into a “relationship” that really only exists in his own mind.
Christen Harper’s Auggie is the perfect complement to Kind, turning into the dream companion who seduces him while remaining an innocent ideal. It’s a contradiction in terms that, indeed, is the whole point of the story. Auggie can only be a fantasy, even if turns out that there’s a real-life counterpart to her.
Kane’s script (with Marc Underhill) leads to a payoff that may seem abrupt, but which is, on reflection, an honest conclusion to the story. “Auggie” answers the age-old plaint of “what do women want?” with the question “what do men want?” And then leaves that issue for the viewer to answer.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.