Monday, June 27, 2011

Jill Andresevic's LOVE ETC tracks the NY love life of three couples and two singles

How cool is it to witness a diverse set of love stories -- in a documentary yet -- set in your very own city, in several of its boroughs and spanning ages that range from teen to octogenarian? Very cool. Part of the charm (there's a lot of it) as well as the reality that imbues Jill Andresevic's consistently involving film, LOVE ETC., comes from the fact that it is set here in New York City and captures everything from the glamour of Broadway to family life in Queens and senior citizens in Brooklyn. We see different races, straights and gays, and -- as NYC is the great melting pot -- folk from as far afield as Brazil and the sub-continent of India.

Ms Andresevic, shown at right, has chosen her subjects quite well, I think, to bring home some valuable points about this thing called love: how many forms it can take, how long (or how short) can be its life span, and the work and commitment involved in turning romantic love into a long-term relation-ship. Thankfully, she doesn't preach. She simply lets the stories, with their memorable charac-ters, spin out. This is plenty, for each tale proves full and fascinating enough to provide its own set of hard questions by the finale, some of these answered, others left hanging in the air to taunt us upon reflection. For all its charm and feel-good moments, Love Etc. does not make long-term "love" look easy.

Yet viewing this movie is very easy. You'll be hooked when you meet the octogenarian couple, Albert and Marion (above, in their youth, and below, more currently): a pair of songwriters still looking for that first "hit." Together for more than 50 years, and now plagued by the failure of body and mind, theirs is indeed a long-term relationship -- one that get a delightful little goosing toward movie's end.

Early on in the film (it may be at the very beginning: It's been more than a month since I've seen the movie), an alarm clock rings, and a young East Indian woman attempts to rouse her boyfriend. It's not easy. This seems cute as we watch, but watch out: the behavior here continues throughout, as the couple -- Chitra and Mahendra -- prepares for its traditional Indian wedding (below), during which we meet both families, and watch as the marriage begins, and then begins to flounder.

First love is usually hopeful, exciting, amusing and sad. We get all this and more from high-schoolers Gabriel (whose family hails from Brazil) and Danielle, who seems a fairly typical bourgeois, street smart Manhattan girl. These kids are young, gorgeous (I could imagine a movie career for Gabriel), intelligent and in love. What could go wrong? At this tender age, so very much.

The film is particularly smart,  I think, to offer us two single guys, one straight, one gay -- the latter of whom I used to know, so it was a bit of a shock to see him up there on-screen. Back when I knew Scott Ellis (shown below, in baseball cap, and who is now a leading director on Broadway and in TV), he was to be cast in one of the roles in a play I had written. A fine actor, he would have been terrific, too, had he not broken his ankle while auditioning for the musical Starlight Express -- which put him out of commission for quite some time. In fact, this may even have had a part in pushing him from actor into the role of a director. We lost touch after the accident, but now, here he is up on screen, looking for Mr. Right -- and deciding to "have" a child via the in vitro fertilization of a woman who will give birth for him.

Scott's story is fascinating, if a bit scary (you'll learn why when you see the film), and also the most glamorous of the five tales here. One delightful scene is a party to celebrate his new fatherhood that features a raft of wonderful Broadway lights, all good friends of his -- from Debra Monk and Julie White to Susan Stroman -- who salute him with a song.

Oddly enough, it was not the gay man with whom TrustMovies most identified. Instead it was Ethan (above, left, and below), the divorced dad of two teens (also shown above), who rather desperately wants a love relationship -- one towards which his kids consistently encourage him. Ethan would appear to be a real catch: handsome, gainfully employed, kind, caring, a good father and all the rest. And then what seems the right woman appears, and he's off and running. His story -- rich, deep and yet told as glancingly as all the others -- should resonate with us men of all ages, particularly when he admits, sadly but not without some hope, that he needs to grow up.

Love Etc. compares -- and well -- to a number of narrative films we've seen over the years, including of course Love Actually. In the genre of documentary, however, it seems pretty much one-of-a-kind: a joy and a treasure that can also pull you up short. The movie opens this Friday, July 1, here in New York (at City Cinema East 86th Street and Landmark's Sunshine) and July 15 in Los Angeles (at Laemmle's Sunset Five).

No comments: