Monday, February 1, 2016

Two Girls and a Guy

Year 8, Day 32 - 2/1/16 - Movie #2,233

BEFORE: It's finally here, the day I put all my complaining and nitpicking about action films and sci-fi films aside, and start a month-long celebration where I complain and nitpick about romance films.  And it looks to be an interesting line-up this year, I've got everything covered, from 1980's romantic comedies, to recent films like "Trainwreck" and "Sex Tape".  No Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts this year, but I've got actresses like Renee Zellweger, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez weighing in on love this time.  And I've got one or two films lined up that might surprise a few people, because they're not conventional romance stories.  But more on that later.  Oh, and I'm finally going to check out films based on this Jane Austen person, as long as that doesn't keep me from watching "Trainwreck" - hey, I have my priorities.

My linking is...well, I've done the best I could, given the films I had to work with.  Last year I think I had the perfect February, 28 films where there was always an actor in common, each film shared at least one star with the film before it and the film after it.  I double-checked my current cast lists the other night, and there's no way around it, I'll have to fall back on some indirect links two or three times - so you can see this will really be four smaller chains that are kind of grafted together.  And I'll have to watch a couple of films online, because cable TV just hasn't been willing to show a couple key films.  Not every channel gives itself over to Valentine's Day programming, I guess.

There are just a few films that only link to one other romance film, and I've learned to put those first and last in the chain, which allows me to use Robert Downey Jr. as a lead-in, and I think if everything stays on track, Ann-Margret will be the lead-out.  But no matter how much I shift the schedule around, I can't make everything link directly, so that's where I find myself, in Year 8 of the project.

Before I carry on, here's the TCM line-up for February 2, with the added actor connections.

Deborah Kerr carries over from "Edward, My Son" to:
"The Sundowners", with Michael Anderson, Jr. carrying over to:
"Dear Heart", with Angela Lansbury carrying over to:
"The Red Danube", with Walter Pidgeon carrying over to:
"Forbidden Planet", with Anne Francis carrying over to:
"Bad Day at Black Rock", with Robert Ryan carrying over to:
"The Battle of the Bulge", with Robert Shaw carrying over to:
"The Sting", with Paul Newman carrying over to:
"The Verdict", with Jack Warden carrying over to:
"From Here to Eternity", with Donna Reed carrying over to:
"The Human Comedy", with Marsha Hunt carrying over to:
"Blossoms in the Dust".

Once again, I've seen 4 out of the films in the line-up.  "Forbidden Planet" is a classic, of course, but I can really see how things are going to pick up in prime time - if you've never seen "The Sting", "The Verdict" or "From Here to Eternity", those are just can't-miss movies.

THE PLOT:  Two girls, Carla and Lou, meet on the street outside a loft waiting for their boyfriends. In a short time, they find out that they're waiting for the same guy.

AFTER: I remember when this film was released, in 1997.  It was very provocative, because based on the title, people thought that maybe they'd go to the theater and see some three-way sex scenes.  And when that didn't happen, and they realized the film was just three people arguing for 80 minutes, they felt really ripped off.  (At least, that's what I think happened...)

A love triangle situation in a movie is classic, just classic - but it's also common.  If you're going to do it, you really have to go out of your way to make it special, or different, and that's clearly what's missing here.  It's just so formulaic - with the 2 girls meeting each other outside the guy's apartment, and then forming a sort of uneasy friendship and ambushing him.  I think that if they HAD turned the film into a three-way relationship (and based on what one of the girls says, her character would have been into that...) that could have been unique and exciting for 1997 Hollywood.  But like the main male character realizes here, that great (?) opportunity was missed.

The other problem here is the terrible dialogue, and since the film is 99% dialogue, that becomes a huge problem.  People just don't talk the way the women do when they're hanging out on the stoop - and if anyone talked like that to another person in the NYC that I know, giving up their life story in a few rapid-fire sentences, they'd probably get a well-deserved punch in the mouth, just for being so annoying.  (Wait, maybe that's what happens in my brain when I hear overly talkative people on the street...)

Then we've got the main conflict, a man is caught juggling two girlfriends.  So what?  Sure, it's a scummy thing to do, especially if he told each girl she was the love of his life, but the key thing to remember here is, they're not married.  I don't think there's even an expectation of exclusive commitment in either case - so essentially, he was just keeping his options open, in case one relationship fell by the wayside.  Not a crime, not in most cases.  And anyone in a modern relationship who doesn't expect this sort of thing is usually seen as a relic - so, really, his "cheating" shouldn't mean anything.  That is, unless it means EVERYTHING to the women he's dating.

But even if that's the case, this should be a 5-minute film.  Women discover they share the same boyfriend, one or both of them walks away, maybe if they confront him it gets a little heated, a door or two gets slammed, and that's it. Most sensible people would shake it off, walk away, and try to pick a better partner the next time.  End of scene.  But this 5-minute premise is dragged out here to a full feature film, with nothing else really added to it, except for his phone calls to his sick mother.   So it's a full violation of the "Show, don't tell" rule, combined with "Stall, stall, stall."

Oh, wait, there is one thing that happens - after being confronted by both girlfriends, our man decides to go into the other room (he lives in, like, the largest Soho loft, ever - no kidding, it's unbelievably huge, even for a movie) and pretend to kill himself.  Because, apparently, that's what you do to prove a point.  What, exactly, was his game plan here?  Did he think both girlfriends would run screaming from the apartment, and he'd be in the clear?  Then things would all blow over, so to speak.  OK, maybe he was trying to prove that they both cared for him, but jeez, there had to be a better way to do that!  It's a bitch to try and explain the situation to the police and the EMT, how you're just pretending to be dead so your girlfriends will GTFO, and can you please circle back with the ambulance and drop me off after you drive away with me in the bodybag?  Yeah, they're not going to do that.

Karma's a bitch, and I've got no sympathy for these characters, because they're all the type of selfish, self-serving young professionals that we learned to HATE in the 1980's, and that got replaced by the hipsters of today.  Not for one second do these characters think of anyone but themselves - they're the kind of people who take the elevator to the second floor, or take 5 minutes to order a donut and coffee when there's a long line behind them.  Even when his mother is sick, Downey's character is only concerned about what that means for HIM.

As a result, we learn NOTHING here about relationships, other than that some men are dicks, and some women have low self-esteem and stick with them, regardless.  But really, no nutritional value - if this movie were a bag of potato chips, watching it would be like dumping out all of the chips and being forced to eat the bag.  There's simply nowhere to go from here but up.

Also starring Heather Graham (last seen in "The Hangover Part III"), Natasha Gregson-Wagner (last seen ringside in "Play It to the Bone").

RATING: 2 out of 10 movie posters

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