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The Dilemma

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for mature thematic elements involving sexual content.

Reviewed by: Daniel Thompson

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Comedy Drama
1 hr. 58 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
January 14, 2011 (wide—2,900+ theaters)
DVD: May 3, 2011
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

Lying in the Bible


Adultery in the Bible




TRUE LOVE—What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

Is formalized marriage becoming obsolete? Answer
Many people are convinced that traditional marriages don’t work and that this practice should be abandoned. What does the Bible say about marriage?

Sex, Love & Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.
Featuring: Channing Tatum (Zip), Winona Ryder (Geneva Backman), Jennifer Connelly, Vince Vaughn (Ronny Valentine), Kevin James (Nick Backman), Queen Latifah (Dana), See all »
Director: Ron Howard
Producer: Imagine Entertainment, Spyglass Entertainment, Wild West Picture Show Productions, Brian Grazer, See all »
Distributor: Universal Pictures

Traditionally, the month of January is considered a dumping ground for bad movies. Movie studios will produce films, and realize after production that they have little to no confidence in the film they have just produced. When this realization comes, they make room for that film in January. These movies open to weak box office receipts while Oscar® hopefuls from December continue to play well. It’s for this reason that when I saw a film featuring two Oscar® winners plus an Oscar® winning director scheduled for a January release, I should have known better. Ron Howard’s “The Dilemma” is an uninspiring movie that earns its spot in the month of January.

Ronny and Nick are best of friends, as well as business partners. Friends since college, they spend a great deal of time together. As a result, their female companions are, also, close. Nick is married to his college sweetheart, Geneva. Ronny is seriously in love with his girlfriend Beth, and because of the positive impression of marriage he sees in his best friend Nick, he’s thinking of proposing to Beth. This ideal world comes crashing down when Ronny spots Geneva with another man, meaning that his best friend’s wife is being unfaithful. From this point forward, “The Dilemma” refers to Ronny’s dilemma—how to tell his best friend the bad news. A few more secrets are revealed along the way, making it more difficult for Ronny to get the truth out, resulting in a tough situation for both couples.

My father used to always say, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” That saying is a very good description of “The Dilemma”. There seems to be a disconnect between what we are seeing on screen and what the creators of the film were attempting to do. There are a few funny parts, and a few dramatic parts, but the movie never settles into a rhythm, and thus comes off as either a mostly unfunny comedy or an underdeveloped drama. The creators of the film were probably going for a portrayal of real life, but instead they get something far from it. “The Dilemma” is a film without a singular goal; it successfully aims at nothing and hits it dead on.

While the plot and writing is all a bit slipshod, “The Dilemma” is filmed and acted with expertise. Legendary director Ron Howard is known for being a master of many genres, with his excellent work in films like “Apollo 13”, “A Beautiful Mind”, and “Cinderella Man”. Howard brings his excellent eye to the project, but he cannot do much to help the storyline or the script. It’s a wonder why Howard signed on for this film, in the first place.

Acting in “The Dilemma” is exactly what you would expect from the caliber of talent on display. The leading ladies are Oscar® winners Winona Ryder as Geneva and Jennifer Connelly as Beth. Ryder and Connelly both have scenes where they showcase their abilities, even if much of it is in vain. Kevin James (“Paul Blart: Mall Cop”) plays Nick, and is fine in his role, but is kept away from his forté of physical comedy. Vince Vaughn (“Wedding Crashers”, “Old School”) plays Ronny and delivers, well, a Vince Vaughn performance. You’re either a fan of Vaughn’s shtick or you’re not, but you know that you’ll get a performance that includes fast, improvisational dialogue.

“The Dilemma” is rated PG-13 and falls within the boundaries of that rating. There is some heavy language, that includes but is not limited to 2 F-words, and multiple uses of the Lord’s name in vain. There is one sex scene viewed through a window that includes male rear nudity. The film is, also, peppered with sexual dialogue, most of it coming from a supporting role played by Queen Latifah, and the laughs she is supposed to get are nonexistent.

Within this mess of a film, the core message is, as you might have surmised, one of honesty. Through the various secrets kept by each character in “The Dilemma”, the viewer learns that in each situation, the best plan of action was 100% honesty. Each time a character tries to lie or tell a partial truth, it ends poorly for him or her. This is a message that is rarely seen in a movie geared toward adults.

Great directing, great acting, and a solid message should equal a must-see movie, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t the case with “The Dilemma”. Instead of building on a solid foundation, the film just gets messier as it goes along, ultimately leaving the viewer out in the cold. There is no dilemma here, save your money this January.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—It was a really, really funny movie, and I always enjoy Vaughn and James.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Ryan O’Hara, age 18 (USA)
Neutral—This film does not portray adultery in a good light. It also shows that pre-marital sex can complicate marriages. It is worth watching, if you are determined to see a movie. It is not worth watching, if you are going out especially to see this particular movie. The humour, with the exception of Queen Latifah, works, and, in fairness, it may be that it is targeted to an audience different from me. The film is a bit soft on the man who is having sex with the adulterous wife, but it still shows him having problems.

It is a sad film. The main character is in a way boorish. It would be an excellent film to take a teenager to or a suspected cheating spouse to, to show that adultery is not cool and is beset with lots of secular problems and unhappiness. It is not a Christian film and overstresses honesty at the expense of stressing sexual morality, but what do you expect in a mainstream film. Nevertheless, I am a person who likes to leave the cinema happy, and it did not do it for me.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
Blue, age 52 (Australia)
Neutral—Man, I was duped. The previews would have you think this is a side-splitting comedy. It does have, after all, two of the biggest (literally) goofballs in comedies today. Man oh man, those previews are so WRONG!

Let me clarify. Ron Howard directed this flick. When has he ever directed a pure comedy? “Splash” was his baby, but that was a romcom. I’m talking straight up comedy. Nothing is coming to mind. I’m no movie encyclopedia, but do you really think of Ron Howard, at least in recent times, for his comedic sensibilities? I don’t. I think of him as the Clint Eastwood type of director. He goes for the emotional journeys, with some level of depth to his characters. I shoulda known better.

“The Dilemma” is a dramedy. More so drama than comedy. That’s not to say I was disappointed. Howard took a simple premise, and actually shaped it into a respectable story. Least I think so. Take what you know from the preview, then put yourself in V. Vaughn’s shoes. It gets to be a wearisome, trying burden to keep what he knows bottled up inside. What the previews don’t tell you is his past addiction to gambling. Or the fact he’s battling his insecurities and can’t quite hammer the nail in the coffin when it comes to proposing to his girl friend. Or that he had relations with his best friend’s wife before his friend and said lady ever batted eyes.

There’s a crucial scene in the movie where Vaughn is so shaken up by all that he knows, and all the mitigating circumstances surrounding his week, that he collapses on a bench and cries out to God. A christian character? Doubtful, but the scene was moving nonetheless. It was such a heartfelt prayer in the midst of the storm, and it’s powerful because you don’t gotta be a believer to cry out to God. He always listens. Sure everything shakes out in the end, and the most important dynamic—Kevin James and V. Vaughn’s friendship, their brotherhood—survives the rocky events.

John Eldredge often opines our closest friends have to be fought for too, just like any relationship.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Mega Tron, age 24 (USA)
Neutral—This movie was not at all like what the previews portrayed. The previews made it seem like a laugh-out-loud comedy, but I only laughed a couple of times throughout the movie. Other than a couple of very brief funny parts, the movie was very dramatic, long, and even boring at times. While it did present some good themes about the importance being honest in relationships (both friendships and boyfriend/girlfriend or married relationships), I agree with the reviewer for this film about the fact that it never really hits the target. That “feel-good” moment we’re looking for as movie-goers just never arrived. The ending was cute, but not worth all the drawn out drama and boredom it took to get there.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
Nicole, age 26 (USA)
Neutral—This movie was okay for a one-time watch, but it didn’t impress me much either way.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Cary Brodel, age 19 (USA)
Negative—I didn’t like this movie at all. Should not have been called a Comedy. Didn’t like it, and it moved way too slow—and almost boring at times. The movie was depressing and had a very sad story line. There was very little funny about this movie. Can’t believe anyone would give this movie a positive. If you like these actors save your money and rent it. Not worth the price tag we paid. Wish I had saved mine!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
Amy, age 41 (USA)
Negative—Not only was there foul language, adultery, but a homosexual couple scene during the 40 Wedding anniversary scene. Not a must see.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2
Carl, age 41 (USA)
Negative—There is no reason to discuss the moral content. This was advertised as a comedy/drama. There was plenty of boring drama, but I never laughed one time. I hated this movie and kept hoping that something would happen to make it worth the wasted time and money, but that never happened. This is not even a rental, it was just terrible!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 1½
Kayla, age 40 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—I just saw this movie, and I liked it. from the christian stand point it wasn’t a “bad” movie I wouldn’t say. there wasn’t a lot of foul language, although some foul language was used here and there, and although that’s not “ok”, you must realize that ALL movies today has foul language and so you cant discard this film strictly because of it. there was no nudity, no sexual scenes, and only a couple scenes where it even showed kissing. the story line was good and wasn’t offensive to christianity.

Yes, it was about a woman cheating on her husband, and, yes, that’s wrong. But the movie wasn’t offensive because the movie was in no way saying it was ok, and the movie clearly portrayed how cheating will cause all sorts of pain and destroy lives. In the film, there are a few comments made about how honesty is important, but in the scenes where this comment is made, it’s not just made, it’s stressed.
See all »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Jordan, age 16 (USA)