Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Galt Niederhoffer's THE ROMANTICS opens: a rom-com without much of either

What a shame for THE ROMANTICS -- the Galt Niederhoffer-directed, -written (from her novel) and -coproduced romantic comedy -- that it opens on the same day as Heartbreaker, the new French rom-com that is as sterling an example of the genre as has graced  theaters in some time.  Comparisons may be odious -- and a little unfair -- but there you are.  If Heartbreakers is, for now, the current pinnacle of this much-trod genre, The Romantics is, at least, not its nadir.  The movie isn't very good, but it does boast a game cast (wasted though most of them unfortunately are), together with a few choice moments along the way.

The best of these moments (above) occurs nearly at the finale, making one realize that funerals should not be the only one of life's big events that the movies insist always take place in the rain. Another is the showdown between a very weak protagonist (essayed by Katie Holmes two photos below, at far right, who doubles as one of the film's executive producers) and her antagonist (played by Anna Paquin, two photos below, center left). There is something other than idle chatter in this particular scene, and so our ears prick up.

I expect that the novel by Ms Niederhoffer (pictured at left) offered stronger characterization and more depth.  Reduced to 95 minutes, including credtis, the movie is all surface, as a group of college chums reunites for the wedding of two of them.  From the outset, as one of the members (played by Malin Åkerman in what is becoming her signature slut mode) pushes the Holmes character to spill the necessary exposition (so we'll know what's going on: Åkerman's character would certainly have known this information already), the movie is a tad too obvious.  Its premise, when set against that of the highly original one in Heartbreaker, is unoriginal to say the least-- mismatched lovers: Will they or won't they tie the knot? Actually, all the characters seem mis-matched. Perhaps that is the point: post-college kids falling too easily into inappropriate relationships. What else is new?

The movie also seems to feature a nearly unending soundtrack -- one of those films in which music and songs try to fill in for content. Much of the babble between characters is also not worth hearing. One of my notes scribled during the screening asks, When do we start to care about any of these people?  Bad news: We never do. They're more often seen primping than thinking.  It appears that nearly everything in each of their lives so far has been a mistake. So why not this latest endeavor, as well? Good question.

The Romantics features an ensemble cast in which no one, other than the leads, makes a mark -- except Elijah Wood (above, center), who is simply awful in a one-note "drunk" role. Adam Brody, one of my favorite young actors, has a nothing role that nearly any other actor could have played just as easily. (See Mr. Brody in Death in Love to discover what he's capable of.)  In the male lead, Josh Duhamel (below, left, with Ms Holmes) is cute, but his character is even weaker and more lame than those of his two leading ladies.  And Candice Bergen as "mom" has little to do and even less worthwhile to say.

Still, any movie that replaces the usual music that accompanies the wedding party down the aisle with nothing but the sound of drums is at least not trafficking in non-stop cliché. And what I perceive to be the idea behind the film -- Stop making all these mistakes and own up to what you want -- is certainly worthwhile. It's just the fleshing-out that's pretty crummy.

The film opens this Friday, September 10, in New York City at Regal's Union Square Stadium 14.

Plus: Q&A with the filmmakers and cast at Regal's Union Square, 850 Broadway!
Each Q&A appearance covers the end of a show, with the intro introducing the following show....

Q/A session with Director Galt Niederhoffer, Producer Ron Stein, and
Stars: Jeremy Strong and Rebecca Lawrence.
Friday Sept 10th, 8:40PM - 9:40PM EST (Q+A 7:00 and Intro 9:40)

Q/A session with Director Galt Niederhoffer, Producer Ron Stein and
Stars: Elijah Wood, Jeremy Strong, and Rebecca Lawrence.
Saturday afternoon Sept 11th, 1:15PM - 2:15PM EST (Q+A 11:40 and Intro 2:00)

Q/A session with Director Galt Niederhoffer, Producer Ron Stein and
Star: Katie Holmes.
Saturday night Sept 11th, 8:40PM - 9:40PM EST (Q+A 7:00 and Intro 9:40)

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