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Movie Review: The Answer Man

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It's rare that a movie manages to be both graceful and biting at the same time, let alone smart, funny and sweet. But The Answer Man fills the bill.

The directorial debut of writer-director John Hindman, The Answer Man deals with the big questions, even as it tells a personal story. In this romantic comedy about finding the courage to confront life, Hindman takes an old-fashioned approach: He actually lets people talk to each other as they struggle with their burdens.

On the surface, The Answer Man is about Arlen Faber (Jeff Daniels), a hugely famous author of a single book, Me and God, which is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Not that it's made Arlen happy: He lives an anonymous life in Philadelphia, zealously guarding his identity (apparently the original book didn't include an author photo) as he tries to stay as unengaged from life as possible.

He's got personal reasons -- which come out in the course of the film -- but the most obvious one is that everyone thinks he has the answers to life. Me and God has "10 percent of the God market," as his editor (Nora Dunn) tells him. The book, a series of questions and answers in which Faber appears to be having an actual conversation with the Almighty, has brought comfort to millions. Most of them, it seems, assume Faber still has a direct pipeline to the Big Guy.

Faber is forced to come out of his cocoon, however, when he throws his back out so badly that he's trapped on the floor of his townhouse, unable to move. Eventually, he crawls -- literally -- to a newly opened chiropractic clinic in his neighborhood. When the chiropractor, Elizabeth (Lauren Graham), works a seeming miracle on him, he actually notices that she's an attractive woman, one he'd like to ask out.

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