A functioning, lovable savant, on the order of Rain Man, and fun to watch, like Taxi's Latka.
But the center cannot hold, and the story rambles all over the place, exactly like 2006's The Pursuit of Happyness, which everyone wanted to love, and too few did.
I so genuinely wanted to adore it, because Roman is adorable. When asked, "What does Esquire mean?" he responds, "It's connotes a designation of status and dignity within the legal profession, somewhere above gentleman and right below knight." What a great line and, frankly, a beautiful idea.
We could use some more Esquires, then.
And Colin Farrell is wonderful, not unlike Rain Man's Charlie, insofar as he evolves and is left standing on his own two feet, his character and optimism renewed, his skepticism and jadedness filed down.
Carmen Ejogo's Maya is a wonderful character, too, smitten with Roman in the same way Colin is, and it's really heartbreaking to see Roman disappoint her as he devolves.
There are no spoilers here, because what goes up must come down, and what comes down surely bounces up, but perhaps bounces down again? The film is funny that way. Roman zigs and zags, and though Denzel does a wonderful job (as always) inhabiting and delivering a so thoroughly well-cooked role, the film itself feels rather half-baked, as if the writers could not quite commit to his character's development or trajectory...leaving the entire souffle rather ambiguous and ill-formed, which, in light of so many news stories recently about people's self-destruction (Weinstein, Spacey, Frankel, Moore, Rose), I can't help but view it as art imitating life: messy, up and down, forward then backward, right then left, and altogether all over the place, if not mostly on the floor and a lot like this calamitous sentence.
On that score, then, it's art effectively imitating life, which is as high a compliment as one might receive in a world at sea.