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I Do…Until I Don’t

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You know how couples joke about a “hall pass” for a celebrity you know your spouse has a thing for? The two my wife gives me grief over are Brit Marling and Lake Bell. Both are attractive actresses, sure; but what I dig about them most is that they can also write strong screenplays. I’m guessing my wife would never give me a “hall pass” since I’ve interviewed Marling once and was going to interview Bell, but couldn’t make it on the day they arranged. You don’t give hall passes to spouses that actually get to meet the people. But I digress.

I was thrilled that Bell went back behind the camera for her new script. I loved the first movie she wrote/directed/starred in — In a World…

This one isn’t as good, but I enjoyed spending time with the various dysfunctional couples.

A well-known documentary filmmaker named Vivian (Dolly Wells) had success with her “Tween Jungle” and wants to do a piece on how marriage never works. She contends that marriage should be like seven year contracts people sign, instead of being married for life. This Brit heads to the Vero Beach Florida, with her butch producer in tow, in search of couples that she can film. Obviously, it helps if the couples look like they won’t make it and will provide drama. Heck, we all like reality shows more when the cast is fighting, right?    

Bell plays Alice, who like her character in In a a bit awkward. That doesn’t just mean in her dealing with Vivian, but also her husband Noah (Ed Helms). He’s a bit stressed that their window blind business isn’t doing so well. She’s a bit stressed about trying to conceive a child. This leads to a hysterical scene with them deciding to go into the bathroom for a quickie. Now, I liked all the jokes in this, but I felt like it needed a lot more. The movie certainly had problems with pacing as well.

Alice thinks Noah has a thing for her sister (Amber Heard) — since she’s a free spirit in an open relationship (with the hysterical, former Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac). Somebody with less talent would’ve written obvious jokes when this couple comes over. Bell instead had a more subtle approach, and it felt more realistic and entertaining. Nothing like watching a hippy-dippy couple give some horrible handmade gift, and another couple pretending they like it. So much funnier than if Noah was just making faces or trying to seduce her.

A pleasant surprise was seeing an older couple in this and who it is that plays them. The talented Mary Steenburgen plays Cybil. She’s on the verge of divorcing her husband Harvey (comedian Paul Reiser, who was underused in the terrific Whiplash). The first time we’re introduced to them at a diner, their fight feels forced. Yet as we watch more interactions in their relationship, we can all relate to an older married couple having problems the way they are. It’s also so interesting how things can be cute when you’re madly in love with each other, and irritating when you’re at your wits end with your spouse. An example would be when Harvey shows up at a diner and he keeps his motorcycle helmet on. Imagine how playfully a new couple would joke about that, and compare it to a woman who isn’t happy in her marriage, and this is just one of many things that’s annoying her at the moment. When she gives him a gift certificate to a “massage parlor”…that encounter goes in an interesting direction that I think most screenwriters would’ve ruined. Instead, we get the crazy Bon Bon (Chauntae Pink) telling a new “masseuse” to “Jerk that elbow to make that bank.”

And what the new woman on the job ends up doing with Harvey is fun because of its awkwardness (by both parties).

There was a cute use of a Heart song in the movie, and I always love hearing one of the greatest songs of all-time: Bring it on Home to Me.

My wife didn’t care for this, but I enjoyed it. It reminded me of an Albert Brooks or Christopher Guest comedy. It was low-key, but enjoyable.

3 stars out of 5.


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