In defense of the film, I'll go back to what Dargas wrote in her review about Payne's empathy being misunderstood as condescension (I'm paraphrasing). I certainly disagree that he's "having a laugh" at the characters in the film, much less the audience. At the same time, he's not going to avoid showing us unflattering images of characters in order to keep us feeling good about the characters or about ourselves. My opinion is that sometimes his writing and the way he sets up his characters and scenes is so frank and straightforward that some people have trouble digesting what he puts in front of them.