Even getting ‘Glee’ star Jonathan Groff naked can’t make ‘Twelve Thirty’ interesting
In classic 18th century picaresque novels, young men bounce bawdily from maiden bed to maiden bed, banging a few horny housewives in between, usually in service of a comic satire of sexual liberation peppered with commentary on politics and cultural mores. They are lascivious and funny — that’s what gets people reading them. It’s what makes them part of a genre.
Twelve Thirty follows a similar structure — Jeff (Glee’s Jonathan Groff), a flirtatious young man, claims sexual inexperience but gets laid more often than beige carpeting during a remnants sale, bedding two sisters and their mother. But the thing is, the film isn’t especially (at all?) funny; it has a frank, raw energy (there’s a good deal of sex and nudity) and it’s character-driven with intensive exposition, but it doesn’t amount to much.
Twelve Thirty is ripe with sexual liberation and tons of quirk, but the quirkiness feels forced. Writer-director Jeff Lipsky’s style echoes indie filmmakers Henry Jaglom and Hal Hartley: It’s sophisticated and smart in a cocktail-party-chatter way, but the emotions are treated with academic aloofness. You don’t feel the movie, you merely experience it.
Lipsky doesn’t mind addressing sex, or even showing sex pretty explicitly, but he prefers to talk about sex. And talk and talk and talk. (The title, I’m guessing, is a joke about having a “nooner” — after it’s over, you still need to find something to talk about from 12:30 on.) So, we get a few tantalizing moments of a naked Groff (and some naked ladies, including a surprisingly perky Karen Young), but much, much more conversation. If the dialogue were scintillating, that might suffice. But while the characters are painstakingly conceived (Young’s character, the mother of two girls, is a furrier who still sleeps with her gay ex-husband), there’s not much insight and the chats generally go nowhere (two British women turn up for moments of colorful backstory, then disappear). The film does take a dark turn bordering on cruelty or madness, but then ends as suddenly as it began. Huh?
The film itself has as much a crisis of identity as Jeff himself: It’s a romantic comedy in search of comedy. And romance.
— Arnold Wayne Jones
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 20, 2011.