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    Jacqueline Kim in Charlotte Sometimes
    Jacqueline Kim

    The Charlotte letter

    Repressed sexuality haunts the Asian-American characters of "Charlotte Sometimes," an indie about four twenty-somethings' complicated interrelationships that's helped by an appealing cast but held back by restrained pacing.


    Gorgeous performers do not a movie make, but in "Charlotte Sometimes" they add immeasurably to the experience.

    Written and directed by: Eric Byler.
    Cast: Jacqueline Kim, Eugenia Yuan, Michael Idemoto, Matt Westmore, Shizuko Hoshi, Kimberly-Rose Wolter, Jon Jacobs, Andrew J. Turner, Cody ChesnuTT.
    Cinematography: Robert Humphreys.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    Eric Byler's film features Michael Idemoto as "a Japanese American auto mechanic torn between a daring tryst with an alluring stranger (Jacqueline Kim) and the habitual comfort of his bittersweet obsession (Eugenia Yuan)." The film, which received 2003 IFP Independent Spirit Awards nominations for Best Feature (The John Cassavetes Award) and Best Supporting Female (Jacqueline Kim), is an independent picture in every sense of the word — slow and methodical, with more talk than action and actors we don't really know yet they look sort of familiar to us. (Kim and Yuan play Chinese-American characters and are very easy on the eyes; the Japanese-America Idemoto is no slouch in the looks department either.)

    Eugenia Yuan in Charlotte Sometimes  
    Eugenia Yuan
    In the film Michael (Idemoto) is landlord to a pair of lovers, Lori (Yuan) and Justin, played by Matt Westmore. Lori is friendly towards Michael and will leave her bed to visit him at night. (Justin has a tolerance that knows no boundaries, apparently!) But they don't act on their mutual admiration; they simply talk, or fall asleep watching TV. Lori tries setting Michael up on a blind date but he isn't interested. "I'm not afraid to be alone" he tells her. What he doesn't tell her is that he's in love with her. Nevertheless, Michael later notices Darcy (Kim) in his local bar and strikes up the kind of erotic flirtation that can only lead to heartache since Darcy quickly tells Michael she's only in town a few days and will soon be gone. Forever.

    The slowness of the piece actually detracts from whatever emotional impact Byler was trying to affect. There are elongated takes of Michael climbing the stairs to his apartment, for example, or heading down to see his tenants, that seem unnecessarily long and lumbering, as if Byler is trying to make a point here and forgot what that point was midway through the shot.

    Similarly, there's a starkness to the film that's hard to get used to. The characters move slowly, talk slowly, and are often dimly lit, housed in shadow, or obscured by meaning. "Does it wait anymore? Does it wait until afterward? I feel it even as I'm coming, this wave of loneliness. Disgust. I hate it so much. I wish I didn't have to do this," muses Darcy after a critical decision late in the film. You kind of sort of know what's she's talking about, but the writing (also by the director) sounds a little too constructed at times. That said, Byler has selected fine actors to deliver his text and that's one of the film's saving graces. Not only do these performers look good, they feel good too!

      Michael Idemoto and Eugenia Yuan in Charlotte Sometimes
      Michael Idemoto and Eugenia Yuan
    The film's title, by the way, is either taken from the song of the same name by the British Goth punk quartet The Cure or from the title of a book by Penelope Farmer (which is where songwriter Robert Smith pilfered it from to begin with). It's telling in the scheme of things since not everyone in the film is as they appear on the surface, sometimes. Michael Brook provides the somber score while Cody ChesnuTT cranks out a few songs and appears, briefly, as himself. (If anyone can tell me why the capital letters at the end of his name I'd be grateful, but not eternally so.)

    More interesting than arresting, perhaps, "Charlotte Sometimes" is an intelligent piece of filmmaking that promises more than it delivers. If only its meek (Michael), mild (Lori), and duplicitous (Darcy) characters were as stunningly three-dimensional as its leads!

    JULY 14, 2003

    Reader comments on Charlotte Sometimes:

  • Characters teach us How   from Jeffery, Jul 20, 2003
  • Charlotte in Denver   from James, Oct 12, 2003
  • Attention Grabber:   from Thomas C. Jackson, Aug 25, 2012

  • Post a comment on "Charlotte Sometimes"