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dir-scr Stephen Belber
with Steve Zahn, Jennifer Aniston, Woody Harrelson, Fred Ward, Margo Martindale, James Liao, Mark Boone Jr, Tzi Ma, Yolanda Suarez, Collin Crowley, Gavin Bristol, Dominic Fumusa
release US 15.May.09, UK 25.Sep.09
Lonely hearts: Zahn and Aniston
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Gentle and very sweet, this low-key romance takes some rather random turns as it drifts toward the obvious conclusion. But it's very nicely played, and it still manages to catch us emotionally.
Mike (Zahn) is a lonely man-child, living in the Arizona hotel owned by his parents (Ward and Martindale). When he spots travelling businesswoman Sue (Aniston) checking in, he invents a reason to talk to her. And even she is surprised by her response to his clumsy advances. But it turns out that she's also lonely, trying to sort out her place in the world and looking for security Mike probably can't offer. On the other hand, is her high-achieving boyfriend (Harrelson) the right choice?
This is one of those quirky independent films that takes several credibility-stretching turns as it shifts from comedy to drama to romance, stirring in all kinds of events and issues and winning us over with sheer charm. Not everything works, and some of the episodes feel jarringly out of place, but they're held together by a refreshing sense of irony and a deeply affecting tenderness.
Essentially, it's the story of a man's coming of age, and Zahn is very likeable even when he does some creepy things. We never understand why he's so painfully awkward, and his transition from clueless to confident is fairly contrived, but his personal odyssey still resonates. Opposite him, Aniston gives a terrific turn as a sarcastic woman who has no reason to be as insecure as she is. Ward and Martindale do the most with their smallish roles, while Liao provides a blast of comic relief as Mike's oddball friend. And Harrelson is hilariously earnest as the yogurt magnate.
The film has an inventive structure, with scenes that echo each other and a plot that literally criss-crosses to three geographical extremes, from Arizona to Maryland to Washington State. And for every moment of over-the-top nuttiness (such as the wacky parachute sequence) there's a witty line of dialog ("You're incredibly sweet beneath the part of you that's not") that catches us off guard. And like Mike, writer-director Belber wears us down with the cinematic equivalent of big puppy dog eyes; the film's so relentlessly cute that we just can't hate it.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
|Christie, Tampa, Florida: "I loved this film! Steve Zahn is incredibly magnetic and filled with such a sweetness no woman could or should resist. I also eagerly looked forward to every scene with James Liao - so protective, encouraging and humorous. Every actor in this film brought something very special to their character." (7.Jan.10)|
© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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