“Wallace Avery” (Colin Firth) is the man who could have been somebody. He was a golf pro with talent but lacking the ability to handle pressure-filled situations. Now he’s a manager at Fed-Ex who dreamt of becoming the company’s CEO and will never get there. He has a son, an ex-wife and a girlfriend, all of whom he seems to disappoint with great consistency.
Given that life, is it any surprise he decides to start over? He purchases a new identity as “Arthur Newman” (the last name being perhaps the film’s best device) and the great plan is to fake his own death. Then he can drive to Terre Haute, Indiana, where he was promised a job as club pro at a country club owned by someone he met. Seems that when he met this guy, he helped him fix his golf swing and was told the job was his.
But on his first night after disappearing, he meets “Mike” (Emily Blunt), a woman who was involved in a big confrontation with some guy and the cops; and is now sitting by the motel swimming pool. She has overdosed on cough syrup and Arthur takes her to the ER.
When she feels better; she learns that Arthur is really Wallace and since she’s running from her own past, she decides she is going to go with him. She’s also interested in a bag filled with stacks of fifty dollar bills that Arthur has locked in the trunk of his new Mercedes.
The duo form a strange relationship as they journey toward Arthur’s new gig, following complete strangers to their homes; breaking in, and then having sex while pretending to be the couple they followed. These scenes may have been intended to show a bond forming between the two, but they seem very out of place.
Mike’s past is revealed and eventually Arthur tells Mike the one fact he’d been trying to conceal. The question becomes, will they realize that there really aren’t do-overs by starting again as someone else, and make the choice to go back to those who love them.
First-feature director Dante Ariola sets an almost glacial pace at the outset and it doesn’t really improve as the film progresses. Colin Firth is a wonderful actor but he can’t overcome the limitations of a character that the filmmakers want to experience ‘growth’ as a person, but who wasn’t all that flawed to begin with. He stepped up to help Mike, and was the only person who tries to save someone’s life when the duo stumble upon a life-threatening emergency. Anne Heche as the girlfriend who only seems to miss Warren once he’s gone is given very little to do. The one bright spot in Arthur Newman is Emily Blunt who shines in every moment she is on-screen. She brings nuance and sub-text to the character of “Mike”. Kudos to her and those who handled her wardrobe and appearance for managing to make her look nowhere near as attractive as she really is, but still keeping a quality of strong sexual appeal. She alone is reason enough to check out Arthur Newman.