Lots of people want to escape their past. Wallace Avery wants to escape his present. Which he does, pretty much before the opening credits are over in "Arthur Newman." That's to be his new name. Plainly, he's given it some thought in advance, as he meets the unsavory dealer in phony IDs (M. Emmet Walsh), purchases the sort of car he figures Arthur Newman would drive (a late-model Mercedes 380 SL convertible) and fakes his death.
The pleasures of "Arthur Newman" come from figuring out the life he left, the dream he clings to for the future and the traveling companion he stumbles into on his way from Orlando to Terre Haute, Ind.
Colin Firth gives Wallace/Arthur a nice end-of-his-tether depression and desperation. He's been laid off from Fed Ex. He's divorced and estranged from his teenage son (Lucas Hedges, quite good). He's dating a woman (Anne Heche) who is constantly disappointed in him.
After he fakes his death, he meets Mikaela, aka "Mike" (Emily Blunt), who's on the run from her real identity, too. She's street-wise, a petty thief with a mania for dressing up and playacting in other people's clothes in other people's houses. Arthur, wounded soul that he is, can't help but be smitten.
Veteran screenwriter Becky Johnston ("The Prince of Tides") has concocted a melancholy, wistful and delusional romance that two very good actors bring to life. There's barely a hint of whimsy in their odyssey, despite their bemused selection of odd people whose homes they invade, the dress-up that comes with each home invasion and the beds they muss. This is more "Something Mild" than "Something Wild." But Firth and Blunt handle their characters' many revelations with care and play with layers of hurt and disappointment with great sympathy and pathos.
PLOT A man fakes his own death and sets out to start a new life, bumping into an uninhibited woman who's also seeking a fresh start along the way.
RATING R (sexual situations, language)