It's clear writer/director Nicole Holofcener wanted to make an urbane feature about middle-aged love with a little of the "Seinfeld" flair. What she delivered, however, is a whole lot of melancholy.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as a divorced, mobile massage therapist who struggles with her love life and coming to terms with her daughter's impending departure for college. Then she meets a man. Sure, he's a bit schlubby, but he's funny, they have snappy banter and he seems to be genuine.
The schlub is played by James Gandolfini in his next-to-last movie made before his unexpected death. As a big fan of "The Sopranos" I tried hard to like this film, out of sentimentality for Gandolfini if nothing else.
But I failed. While Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus are talented actors, what they were given to work with was subpar, TV-grade material that produced zero laughs, a simple storyline and Red Lobster-esque sophistication. I never felt a real chemistry between our heroes, and their character flaws were hard to overcome.
The real deal-breaker, however, was the lifeless dialogue that made all of the actors seem painfully flat. What works well for Holofcener as the director of amusing shows like "Parks and Recreation" and "Six Feet Under" just doesn't translate into the more nuanced environment of film.
Acceptable for kids at least 12 year old. (PG-13: Sexual themes and language). 1 hour and 33 minutes.
Ratings (out of 4 stars):
Overall: 2 stars
Teens: 2 stars
Adults: 2 stars
Seniors: 2½ stars
Should you watch it? No -- unfulfilling love story.
Another indie film with angst and massage therapists, this one equally ho-hum. Rosemarie DeWitt stars as the groovy masseuse going through a midlife crisis when she realizes she can't stand -- gasp -- touching her clients.
At the same time her possibly autistic dentist brother (Josh Pais) sees his struggling practice revive when people believe that he can cure TMJ jaw pain. And just for fun, our heroine's niece (Ellen Paige) is secretly in love with DeWitt's slacker boyfriend.
None of these are bad people, and I wanted to like them, but writer/director Lynn Shelton has created a Thorazine-slow world full of earnest, dull, self-absorbed characters. Are we rooting for them to break out of their ruts and find happiness? I guess so. But it's like watching a Little League game when you don't know any of the kids playing: hard to muster much enthusiasm.
Marketed as a dark comedy, this film winds up being neither funny nor even very dark. Just a lot of gray. Acceptable for teens 14 years old and up. (R: Language and drugs). 1 hour and 39 minutes.
Ratings (out of 4 stars):
Overall: 1½ stars
Teens: 1 star
Adults: 1½ stars
Seniors: 1 star
Should you watch it? No -- sluggish indie dramedy that goes nowhere.
J.B. Alderman lives in Piedmont and can be reached at email@example.com.