“Puzzle” review by Nate Blake

Directed by: Marc Turtletaub

Length: 103 minutes

Rated: R

If you’ve watched any forgettable made for TV movies, you have an idea of what to expect from “Puzzle.” It tells the story of Agnes, a doting suburban wife and mother (played by Kelly Macdonald) who begins carving out some time for herself when she becomes hooked on putting together puzzles. Eventually, she answers a posting in a game store from a man named Robert (Irrfan Khan) who is searching for a partner to help him put puzzles together. Anges discovers he wants her to enter puzzle competitions with him, and the time she needs to devote to practicing creates conflict at home.

Agnes and Robert are interesting characters, but the scripts moves on too quickly from the quirks it gives them. It constantly misses far more interesting opportunities in favor of very conventional plot points and an excessive amount of screen time for other characters who are not developed beyond the one-dimensional traits they are given to serve the plot. The result is a film that feels no more enlightening or fresh than some of the network TV movies of the week that used to air on Sunday nights.

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Agnes and Robert’s relationship becomes less interesting once it turns physical. There is certainly a fun dynamic that develops between these two early on, but one thing missing is any sort of sexual tension.

Turtletaub spends a lot of time exploring Agnes’ relationship with her husband and sons, but we learn everything we are going to about them in the film’s first 10-15 minutes. After that, every scene with them feels like more of the same. There’s never a point where any of them do something surprising. The lack of complexity is frustrating. Louie, Agnes’ husband (played by David Denman) is a jerk from the film’s opening until almost the very end, when Agnes’ suffers a mild injury and he assists her in a manner that I guess is supposed to make us think maybe Agnes’ has a reason to be happy with her life with him. The ending of the film tricks us into thinking Agnes’ has two options, then makes the wise decision to have her look beyond the false binary. It’s the film’s single interesting plot choice.

“Puzzle” isn’t a terrible movie, but it’s painfully familiar and safe when it shouldn’t have been.

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