Monday, June 13, 2016

In NO STRANGER THAN LOVE, Nick Wernham & Steve Adams explore a rare subject (if only)

Yes, it's love: a theme that, gosh almighty, movies almost never tackle. Forgive my making light of this I'm-sure-well-intentioned bit of metaphorical fluff, but arriving in theaters only three weeks after Oliver Thompson's better example of metaphorical fluff, Welcome to Happiness, the new movie, NO STRANGER THAN LOVE, written by Steve Adams and directed by Nick Wernham (shown below), seems, among other things, like too-much-too-soon. While the Happiness film posited a magical door that opened up into a world where you can correct your past mistakes, Stranger/Love offers up some kind of black hole that appears in our heroine's living room and swallows up her about-to-be-adulterous boyfriend. Yikes. But so what?

The movie is also about important things like the meaning of art and unpaid bills to one's bookie. But it so rarely stops pushing its loony-tune story, and in a style so relentlessly bouncy that it soon sets your teeth on edge, that my spouse bailed after a half an hour of viewing. TrustMovies stuck with it -- because that's his job, and also because spousie and he sometimes disagree -- but to little avail. This tale -- of a pretty young high-school art teacher (Alison Brie, above) whom every man in town and even one of her sexier students seems to love -- goes just about nowhere, once that black hole appears. Instead we get silly vamping for at least a full hour, during which all the characters, from school officials to law enforcement, behave so foolishly that any kind of possible identification or caring becomes impossible.

The idea of this black hole (above) is fun, and its execution is both clever and economical, but beyond that we must wait an hour before the movie calms down enough that our patience stops being perilously tried. (That calming is due in large part to an actress named Robin Brûlé, who plays the wife of the would-be adulterer and is good enough to briefly ground the movie.)

Otherwise, the rest of the cast do their part to bring the would-be philosophical rom-com to silly life. This would include its not very believable hero, played by Justin Chatwin (above with Ms Brie), and Colin Hanks, below, as the naughty boyfriend (mostly wasted since, once he's in that hole, we only hear his voice).

"Why'd you come here?" "I don't know." That exchange sums up much of the ridiculous dialog on display, as the actors flail around trying to be adorable but instead come up annoying. It's quite endearing that the moviemakers want to show us the real meaning of love. But to do this, they ought to have situations and characters we can embrace. The problem here is not that the black hole defies belief. But just about everything and everyone else does.

Also, unless I was sent a defective screener, this is one of those films in which the background soundtrack deafens the ears while much of the dialog gets lost in space. (I managed to hear most of the latter by going back and upping the volume.) In the end we learn that "it takes a village," as a certain Presidential candidate once wrote, to demonstrate love and make it work. But then the filmmakers resort to the same-old tired, true-love formula for their finish -- as though these two characters would have the least notion of what love might mean. Well, better luck next time.

No Stranger Than Love, from Momentum Pictures/EntertainmentOne and running 90 minutes, opens this Friday, June 17 -- in Atlanta at the AMC Stonecrest 16, in Boston at the AMC Liberty Tree Mall 20, in Chicago at the AMC Streets of Woodfield 20, in Dallas at the AMC Stonebriar 24, in the Denver area at the AMC Westminster Promenade 24 and the AMC Cinema Saver 6, in Kansas City at the AMC Town Center 20, in Los Angeles at the Arena Cinema Hollywood, in Miami at the AMC Sunset Place 24, and in Washington D.C. at the AMC Lexington Park 6. Simultaneously, the movie will also be available via VOD.

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