” is one of those awkward-humor films that depends on uncomfortable being
funny. It creates a very
unusual atmosphere that, to its credit, it consistently maintains
throughout. But those of us who
might qualify as uptight nerds happily dwelling in the vast cultural
wasteland known to Left and Right Coasters as “The Heartland” will feel
a little like we’re the simpleton buffoons they’re making fun of here.
Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is an insurance agent from
, who doesn’t know that he’s underachieved.
He never married or raised a family, instead lazily carrying on a
long-term affair with his 7th-grade teacher (Sigourney Weaver),
which effectively prevents him from doing anything else with his life.
He thinks of himself as “pre-engaged” to her, which is just
junior-high enough to make her think he’s hopelessly naďve.
And maybe he is.
He’s sent to the big insurance convention in
, because his boss has to attend his daughter’s wedding. But the boss has
specific instructions for him, that he must somehow bring home the
“two-diamond” award, given annually to the best agency.
Oh, and be sure to hang out with the good guys, like Ronald Wilkes (Isiah
Whitlock, Jr.), and whatever you do, avoid that conscienceless poacher, Dean
Ziegler (John C. Reilly).
Our straight-arrow Lippe, who says he’s never even been on an
airplane before, much less attended any kind of out-of-town convention, at
first does all the dutiful things: shows
up on time for the registration, schmoozes the President, attends all the
seminars, and mistakenly believes that the hooker working outside really is
just bumming a cigarette from everybody.
But our straight-laced bumpkin discovers some things he’d never
experienced before: like
realizing the organization takes bribes for the awards.
Like figuring out that the brash, loudmouth Ziegler is actually more
fun than all those self-righteous straight-edges put together.
And he even finds himself enjoying the flirtation one female agent
(Anne Heche) who drinks like one of the guys, and is also shamelessly
cruising for some extracurricular activity.
And who woulda thunk that our Mr. Button-Up would find himself
frolicking half-naked in the pool with her?
Well, needless to say, our inexperienced Mr. Lippe learns some things
about the ways of the world, about himself, and about even a little about
that dark, seamy underside of life that he previously knew nothing about.
But more importantly, he finds some true friends.
So The Education of Mr. Lippe is really, at heart, a buddy movie,
with a lot of self-deprecating small-town, small-minded farce thrown in for
” is a very unusual film that at first relies on the collective
conspiratorial condescension of the viewer, and then, at the end, asks the
viewer to be heart-warmed by the “coming of age” of a cultural newbie.
Be prepared for a different kind of silliness.