The story – funny, touching, sad, and real – of an ordinary person, engulfed by ordinary events, making an extraordinary emotional journey.
It’s a movie for everyone whose life has been thrown off-course, out of whack, or simply not turned out the way they planned it. In other words, it’s a movie for everyone, period. Set in suburban Long Island in the summer of 2002, with the psychic wounds of 9/11 still fresh, A LITTLE HELP is a story that takes a comic, searching and profoundly empathetic look at a few pivotal months in the life of dental hygienist Laura Pehlke (Jenna Fischer)—an ordinary woman whose life suddenly flies off the rails—and her heroic efforts to re-establish a sense of security and normalcy for herself and her son. Thirtysomething Laura has always enjoyed the wind at her back, by virtue of her good looks and exuberant, winning personality. But lately, things have taken some dark and difficult turns. Her marriage to real estate agent Bob Pehlke (Chris O’Donnell) has become tense and loveless; Laura even suspects that he’s been cheating; and her previously close relationship with her 12 year-old son Dennis (Daniel Yelsky) has become strained as he enters adolescence. With little to sustain her outside of these two problematic relationships, Laura finds herself slipping into the habits of her happier, party-girl days… having just one more beer than she should (and then another one after that); lying about whose cigarette is sitting in the ashtray of her car. Belittled by her husband and her intrusive mother Joan (Lesley Ann Warren) and sister Kathy (Brooke Smith), she’s only just beginning to realize how truly lost she is. In this disconnected state, she’s woefully unprepared for her husband’s sudden death, the result of a heart problem that went undetected by an ER physician. Still in shock from the trauma, she allows her family to dictate two major life decisions, as they pay to send Dennis to an exclusive private school (on the dubious principle that the school’s “structure” will in some way provide for the loss of his father) and coerce Laura into filing a malpractice suit against the doctor who misdiagnosed Bob. Though she has deep reservations about the suit, shark-like attorney Mel Kaminsky (Kim Coates) critically notes that Bob’s mismanagement of their finances threatens to undermine Laura’s ability to provide for her shattered family, and suggests the lawsuit as the best means of ensuring her security. Within days, Laura finds herself an unwilling party to two massive, bizarre lies. At his new school, feeling like an outsider, Dennis wins his peers’ respect after impulsively telling them that his deceased father was a heroic fireman who died in the twin towers. While horrified, Laura grudgingly agrees not to reveal the lie in order to save her son the humiliation of exposure. Simultaneously, she finds herself increasingly uncomfortable with the progress of the lawsuit; the ER doctor might have diagnosed Bob correctly but for her husband’s evasive and uncertain account of his condition—a truth she suspects he failed to reveal to the doctor in order to cover his infidelity. As her troubles deepen and her desperation mounts, the strain of maintaining these two facades threatens to snap the fraying threads holding her life together. But Laura finds strength from an unexpected source, her brother-in-law Paul (Rob Benedict). Another devoted parent who has a similarly difficult time holding his own against the overbearing Joan and Kathy, Paul grew up with Laura, admiring her from afar, but considered her way out of his league back in high school. It is only now, during these difficult days,that Laura begins to appreciate the unconditional devotion and support that Paul provides, but is her realization too late to help her chart her course through the dire straits her life has entered?