It's "Easy" a little too easy
Writer-director Jane Weinstock didn't put enough original thought into "Easy," but the nicely acted and affectionately filmed portrait of a girl in love's thicket is still a watchable little romance.
By JOSHUA TANZER
A good romance is hard to find. One of the latest, called "Easy," is a good attempt at a romance, but not in that "oh my god this could be the one!" kind of way more in the "I could have a little fun with this one until something better comes along" kind of way.
"Easy" has enough charm and sex appeal to keep you involved and entertained for its duration. Yet, something may also nag at the back of your mind as you watch it as earnestly as the film seeks to earn labels like "intelligent comedy" and "quirky independent," it doesn't have quite the spark to justify such praise.
|Written and directed by: Jane Weinstock.|
Cast: Naveen Andrews, Nelson Aspen, Emily Deschanel, Jordan Garrett, Caroline Goodall, Pablo Lewin, Vanessa Marano, Marguerite Moreau, Brian F. O'Byrne, John Rothman, Tom Todoroff, Lanette Ware, D.B. Woodside.
Cinematography: Paul Ryan.
Edited by: Robert Hoffman, Lauren Zuckerman.
Music by: Grant Lee Phillips.
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We meet Jamie (Margeurite Moreau) by way of her answering machine, filled with "Dear Jamie" messages from guys she dated momentarily who have decided to heave her overboard through the oh-so-gentle medium of voicemail. So our perennially footloose heroine begs her sister Laura to come with her to a poetry reading at an L.A. bookstore, given by her college poetry teacher, John (Naveen Andrews). Not only has John just published a new poetry collection earnestly titled "Doubt Me Not," but moreover ...
"He's hot!" exclaims Laura (Emily Deschanel, sister of Zooey).
When it becomes obvious why her sister dragged her out to a poetry reading, Laura warns her: "Do not fuck him!"
"Can I kiss him?" Jamie asks.
"No!" Laura insists.
But one thing leads to another Jamie asks the swarthy, poetry-composing hottie back to her place for a bottle of wine, and when her search for a corkscrew takes her from the silverware drawer to the condom drawer to the underwear drawer, well, it's no surprise where the reunion goes from there.
John is a dream come true, but in romance pictures as often in life, what seems perfect in the first flush of love turns out to be all too complicated later on. As John, who so recently seemed to be something special, appears in danger of becoming just another voice on the answering machine, Jamie falls back on her family and friends to help her through yet another heartbreak. One new friend an Irish émigré named Mick (Brian F. O'Byrne, also seen this year in "InterMission") with an air of sincerity and a goofy sense of humor wants her to come onto his comedy-channel interview show for an interview about her job giving names to products. Mick is more "just friends" material than sexy heartthrob, but, as Jamie gradually comes to realize, maybe those "just friends" qualities are what you really want in a boyfriend.
A number of increasingly contrived plot complications ensue, and the movie becomes an uneasy mix of appealing characters in the grip of implausible or immaterial events. And even if we give Weinstock her calculated plot developments, some things just don't sit right.
One problem is the angst that our heroine supposedly feels over men, when in fact she appears to be in her early to mid-20s, much too early to be so morose about the low quality of eligible bachelors. She may have been around the block once, but she hasn't smelled most of the roses yet.
Another is her job it's supposed to be one of the most unusual and individuating things about her character, but in fact, it's just a bit of a parlor trick. Weinstock drops in a couple of one-liners about fanciful product names, but they're really just gags, and that's our only exposure to this young woman's intellectual mind. We see little of her outside of the looking-for-a-man context.
And finally, a problem that I only noticed at the end of the movie when I checked my notes for interesting quotes of which I had none. Weinstock is of the "words of one syllable" school, and as a result, people in her movie rarely speak a complex sentence, let alone two or three in a row. If we're waiting for the one big conversation that really exposes what these characters are feeling, well, it doesn't really come. The ideas may be in there, but they're lightly thought out. Even John's poetry is less Levertov than lite-FM.
It's easy to come away with the cynical view that "Easy" is just a second-rate effort to make a first-rate indie movie. Its quirky characters aren't that quirky; its original point of view isn't original. But it's also possible to come away well satisfied with your hour and a half's entertainment. Chalk that up to pretty good direction and acting. A lot of the humor and heartbreak come across not in what's said but in how it's said; a lot of the characters' believability comes from well-handled moments and the patient, affectionate view through the camera's eye.
|APRIL 27, 2004|
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