' Cinema Romantico: Bart Got A Room

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Bart Got A Room

Imagine, if you will, that Woody Allen decided to remake "American Pie" and you're on the path to understanding writer/director Brian Hecker's supposed autobiographical film. Substitute a south Florida setting - that, if not for mentions of internet dating and "E-Flowers", would feel like the 1950's - for the not-so-gritty streets of Allen's Manhattan, employ numerous jazz standards for the score and serve up a hero in the form of Danny Stein (Steven Kaplan), a sadsack, kvetching teenage romantic (South Florida Danny Stein?) whose goal is to both score a date for the upcoming prom and to "get a room" for afterwards since, hey, the fabled Bart - George McFly without as much screen time - got a room. (Why the film even makes way for a brief appearance by the buxom Jennifer Tilly, the same woman whose only Oscar nomination was scored in - yes! - a Woody Allen film!)

Danny's best friend for eons has been Camille (Alia Shawkat, or, as she's known in some circles, Maeby F√ľnke) and with prom on the horizon she suggests that perhaps it would be best for these two dateless pals to attend together. Danny evades her proposal since his recent routine has been giving a nightly ride home to sumptuous sophomore Alice (Ashley Benson), who doubles as a cheerleader, and all signs, like Alice changing out of her cheerleader outfit right in front of him in his car while opining about how much she yearns to attend the prom, point to her wanting Danny to ask. Eventually he does. She says he misread her signs. Of course.

Thus begins Danny's plight in earnest. His friend, obsessive tanner Craig (Brandon Hardesty), tries to assist in the hookup but to no avail. The seemingly awkward moment of a teacher reading aloud student's journals in class leads to an opportunity of enlisting a date only to have it go horribly awry. Even Danny's father (William H. Macy), a single version of Jim's Dad in "American Pie", who drags his son along on dates to the sort of restaurants where they have the tenderloin-and-baked-potato special for patrons prior to 5:30, aids the effort. (And pay close attention to the first of the father's dates. She doesn't say a single word but is kept in the frame the whole time, her bug eyes never straying from him, hestitant and frightened as he eats his Big Pickle. She might give the funniest performance in the whole film.)

No doubt the hijinks and "twists" are several shades past predictable but it's the air of the way Hecker's film allows these hijinks and "twists" to unfold. It's most old fashioned. You can feel the warmth permeating from the edges of the screen and I found that refreshing. The parents love their kid and the kid loves his parents. They assist him in his cause because they trust him - like when Danny's mom (Cheryl Hines) agrees to reserve a hotel room for him in advance. Sure we have to endure the creaky scene of Danny's dad trying to enlist the aid of a woman who makes a living, shall we say, turning tricks near the end but even then he's doing it out of love.

And what's most joyous is the finale. While so many movies waste promising opening acts to peter out with obvious endings, "Bart Got A Room" kinda inverts that script. It's not precisely the end you expect. Yes, they wind up at prom and, yes, Danny and Camille wind up as companions at it (whoops! did I give it away?!) but the movie doesn't "end"-end at the prom. It ends in a different way. With a message I rather quite liked. I guess it was nice to see a teen movie where that Blink 182 kinda crap didn't infiltrate the soundtrack and the parents weren't all clueless morons and the hero's motives weren't sleazy and there aren't any people like Stifler running amock.

Maybe this will make me sound like a 57 year old man but there's hope for our children yet.

1 comment:

Tyla said...

thoughtful review! thanks!