Better Living Through Chemistry is a worthwhile comedy currently streaming.

Essentially, this is a vehicle for Sam Rockwell to act weird. While it’s not a laugh riot, Sam Rockwell is a fucking star and he can carry a subpar story. You get the obligatory, crowd-pleasing Sam Rockwell dance sequence to go along with his infusion of bizarre energy and unique presence. I’m captivated by even the mundane actions of the aptly-named Sam Rockwell—because Sam does in fact rock well.

Don’t raise your hopes and expectations too high, but this comedy is better than most in theaters. Better Living Through Chemistry is simply a goofy, silly satire of boring suburban family life.

Rock 'n Well

Sam Rockwell plays a by-the-book pharmacist named Doug Varney who recently bought the family pharmacy from his asshole father-in-law, Walter Bishop—played by the late Ken Howard. Doug is extremely unhappy in his marriage to annoying, uber-controlling Kara—who is expertly performed by Michelle Monaghan. Kara is an ultra-competitive cyclist (often at the expense of being there for their quirky, troubled son) and she practically has Doug’s balls in a jar on the mantelpiece.

Doug’s miserable existence gets a jolt of life when he delivers medicine to jaded trophy wife Elizabeth Roberts. I don’t know how most of you feel about Olivia Wilde, but she is fucking stunning in this movie and she plays the sad housewife very well. Addicted to a cocktail of prescription pills to ignore her loveless marriage, Elizabeth introduces Doug to the sordid life of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n well.

Olivia Wilde

Most of the supporting cast is admittedly unremarkable. Ray Liotta is the best of the lot as Elizabeth’s absentee husband (Jack). While the story eventually saunters towards Doug and Elizabeth plotting to kill Jack by jacking up the dosage of his heart medicine, Ray Liotta is only in two scenes so you hardly get enough of him. Ben Schwartz is probably the other slightly memorable supporting actor as Noah—a dirtbag/douchebag employee at Doug’s pharmacy who never actually does his job.

It is supremely strange to have Jane Fonda narrate this movie. It feels like an awful joke that they attempted to pay off, but it just falls flat with a resounding thud. Instead of using a confusing narrator that makes no sense why she’s involved, you have a ready-made professional with a velvety voice in lead actor Sam Rockwell. Were they afraid of having too much Sam Rockwell?


You can never have too much Sam Rockwell.  The movie would have benefited by using different framing.  The story should have been from his perspective. Maybe it would’ve made the DEA investigation subplot more interesting instead of the stilted interaction with the aloof agent.

While Better Living Through Chemistry meanders through the second half, you can do a lot worse in terms of comedies—plus, this is still streaming on Netflix. Although it should be an easy sell to Sam Rockwell fans, this is a light-hearted dark comedy that might appeal to a wider middle-age audience because it doesn’t take itself seriously. Basically, it manages to be an enjoyable midlife crisis.


3 out of 5 stars


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