Modern love

Posted on 05 Feb 2009 at 10:38am
By Steve Warren Contribuiting Film Critic

Overly long rom-com about painfully needy singles hooks up some fun


GAY BLADES: Chronic reject Drew Barrymoore works at the gay newspaper, Baltimore Blade, where her co-workers inform her that MySpace is so 2007.

B

Director: Ken Kwapis
Cast: Ben Affleck, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson and Wilson Cruz
Opens: Feb. 6 in wide release.
2 hrs., 9 min.              PG-13

As one of the executive producers, Drew Barrymore could have done anything she wanted in the ensemble-ish romantic dramedy "He’s Just Not that into You." She chose the relatively minor role of a friend of Friends of Dorothy.

A wide range of mostly thirtysomething heterosexuals search for relationship nirvana in a romantic dramedy. Though male and female viewpoints are represented, the female characters are generally stronger, even in their weakness.

Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), Beth (Jennifer Aniston) and Janine (Jennifer Connelly) work together. Janine landed Ben (Bradley Cooper) with the Marriage Ultimatum, so Beth tries it on Neil (Ben Affleck), after seven years of unwedded bliss.

Neil is like a gay man who argues against marriage rights because relationships don’t need the state’s validation, without considering the benefits that accompany that validation.

Gigi’s desperation scares men off, including Conor (Kevin Connolly), whose friend Alex (Justin Long) gives Gigi honest insight into men. Conor is trying to understand why Anna (Scarlett Johansson) treats him the way other men treat women.

Anna meets Ben and falls so hard that by the time he tells her he’s married it doesn’t matter to her. Then he has to decide whether it matters to him.

Mary (Barrymore) is a friend of Anna’s but largely peripheral to the story, isolated because most of her interpersonal contacts are through a technological buffer. She sells advertising for a gay newspaper, the Baltimore Blade, where she’s just one of the girls but the other girls are boys (Wilson Cruz, Leonardo Nam, Rod Keller).

Conor, a realtor "trying to expand my client base," is one of Mary’s advertisers. He gets good-natured teasing from Alex when he tries dressing a little gayer, and Bill Brochtrup gives him an amusing lesson in reading gay signals.

Despite the number of tales it has to tell and how well it’s paced, this movie wears out its welcome as it approaches the two-hour mark. It takes the attitude that if "Love Actually" and "Sex and the City" could run over two hours, it can, too.

While trying to wise women up, the movie provides enough happy endings and positive spins to send female viewers away with their delusions blissfully intact.

OUT TAKES’ THURSDAY SCREENING

"That’s stupid," Alex (Andrea Marcellus) says when Jonathan (Charlie Schlatter), her gay best friend, suggests she hire a lesbian pretend-girlfriend when her sister, Jeannie (Desi Lydic), visits New York.

"Out at the Wedding" has stupidity to burn. Alex has told her biracial fiancé her South Carolina family is dead because she doesn’t think they’d accept him.

A rumor starts at Jeannie’s wedding that Alex is a lesbian and she doesn’t correct it. Hence the charade a month later, for which she hires Risa (Cathy DeBuono), who isn’t the only dyke in town by the end of the story.

Marcellus is reminiscent of Felicity Huffman or a cross between Lauras Dern and Linney, and DeBuono has the makings of a lesbian icon, like Patricia Charbonneau in "Desert Hearts."

The stupidity in Paula Goldberg’s script goes far beyond what’s supposed to be funny-stupid. Director Lee Friedlander has cast good actresses but the principal Southerners have no drawl at all, y’all; and there’s zero chemistry between Marcellus and her fiancé, the main twosome in this romantic comedy.

The pace is too slow for a wacky screwball farce but some good performances and relatable moments provide enough laughs to help gloss over some mistakes.

— Steve Warren

Grade: C+

OUT TAKES Dallas screens "Out at the Wedding," Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at The Magnolia in the West Village, 3699 McKinney Ave. Before the screening, there’s a 6 p.m. reception for screenwriter Paula Goldenberg at Trousseau By Touch Gallery, 3699 Mckinney Ave. OutTakesDallas.Org

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 6, 2009.

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