Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Sunday, November 07, 2004

film

-- film -- reeling 2004: eating out

...Wow.

That was ... just dreadful.

I mean, really SPECTACULARLY dreadful.

Riddle me this, people: you have a guy (Scott Lunsford, playing Caleb the clueless straight hunk) interested in a girl (Emily Stiles, playing Gwen as a somewhat shrill twit) who is mostly only interested in kinda-gay guys who can be "turned". (Don't ask. Just ... don't. What she really wants is a nice bisexual guy, but they seem to be in short supply.) In order to make this work, Caleb has to pretend to be attracted to her roommate and best friend Marc (Ryan Carnes, from "Desperate Housewives" fame), who is genuinely gay and who genuinely thinks that Caleb is a nice guy -- which he mostly is -- and attracted to him, but just out of the closet and uncertain what to do -- which he mostly is not. Then you have Kyle (Jim Verraros, of American Idol fame) who has a longstanding but understandably unrequited crush for his best friend Caleb, and one of more recent vintage on Marc. Yet it's his idea to have Caleb play gay and make nice with Marc in order to attract Gwen.

Does this set up make sense to anyone? ANYONE? ... Bueller? Bueller? ... well, all-righty, then!

Ignore the opening setup which for a moment has the audience believing that nice-guy Caleb, whom we haven't really met yet, is trying to "rape" someone (way to make sure your audience doesn't like your lead, fellas!) and who then gets more or less dumped by the woman with whom he's having enthusiastically unsatisfying sex. The film, as it's structured, presents us with essentially likeable characters -- with the exception of Gwen, to whom Caleb's attraction is utterly unfathomable, except that she's pretty and surpassing strange -- who are certain to get hurt, mostly through no action of their own. (Except for Kyle, whose idea this was, so he's technically at fault -- but he clearly didn't realize how it would make him feel when he started it.) And when comedy gives you likeable characters who are getting hurt again and again, and who can't understand why it's happening, and who can't seem to stop it from happening even when they do ... it really ceases to be funny.

Here's the thing: the setup gets so difficult for the characters that in most of the last, say, one-third of the film, the director and writer and actors stop trying to make it funny. At which point the film actually starts playing. The characters become believable, and just that much harder to watch, but also very interesting to see how they cope with this situation. And the movie actually starts working.

And then the director/writer remember that, oh, yes, they're supposed to be doing a comedy, and they spend the last 10 minutes sticking on this almost slapsticky ending that is simply does not work with the half hour or so that came just before it. Given that it's a romantic comedy, I feel that I can say this without giving anything important away, because this is the sort of film that you walk into knowing the ending before it starts: it is utterly, sincerly unlikely and unbelievable, after all the things they go through, that everyone winds up with the people they want. It makes no sense that Gwen would forgive Caleb for what he put her and Marc through. It makes no sense that Marc would forgive Kyle for being the mastermind behind the entire thing. But romantic comedy demands a happy ending, and so this one gets forced onto a story for which it is a desperately bad fit.

Strangely, people I know keep saying that this is a wonderful film and I should see it. As far as I can tell, this is because they like looking at Ryan Carnes in the altogether. And, to be sure, his altogether is very nice altogether. But it doesn't make this a good film, or worth seeing this thing.

Posted by iain at 03:44 PM in category film