' ' Cinema Romantico: The Romantics

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Romantics

If on the eve of your wedding day you find your fiancé "staring out at the sea like a lovesick sailor", well, it's probably safe to assume that all is not well. And despite the film's title, all is not well with The Romantics, a group of seven uber-privileged college friends who have gathered, as they must, for a wedding. It is the marriage of Tom (Josh Duhamel) and Lila (Anna Paquin). Tom used to be in love with Laura (Katie Holmes), and vice versa. Lila has asked Laura to be her maid of honor even though they are not necessarily best pals. Why? Because women are working on a whole other level, man.

The rest of The Romantics arrive. There is the rehearsal dinner at which various, drunken, tepid toasts are made. Then Lila hustles off to bed and the remainder of The Romantics steal half the minibar and gallivant into the night the way they once were. Jake (Adam Brody) is married to Weesie (Rebecca Lawrence) and Pete (Jeremy Strong) is married to Tripler (Malin Akerman, who is absolutely bewitching). They all have their own problems. And then there are Tom and Laura, pretending to try not to notice they are still attracted to each other. The six of them take an alcohol-infused moonlight swim at which point Tom turns up missing. The remaining quintet decides to search for him and, naturally, which is to say the screenwriting gods issue a thunderbolt of proclamation, the two married couples swap for the search - Jake and Tripler, Pete and Weesie. Drugs will be done. Dares will be made. And Laura finds Tom hiding. Things are gonna go down, but in a very literary way.

This is because the film, written and directed by Galt Niederhoffer, was based on a novel (also written by Niederhoffer). Imagine "Rachel Getting Married" losing the indie vibe and going for 80's Woody Allen with thirtysomethings. The language here is deliberate, icy like the north Atlantic. Tom and Laura argue beneath the old oak tree like the ex Ivy Leaguers they are, unleashing torrid complete sentences and quoting poetry with the nastiest of intentions and culminating in Tom's epic lifeguard monologue which is a horrific natural disaster of writing and acting, like some out-of-his-element sap at District Speech Contest trying to recite a couple pages of Nicholas Sparks. At this point it snaps into focus: Why is Tom the object of affection? Duhamel, lacklusterly handsome, like any slicked up doofus who uses his Harvard background as an excuse to extend an invitation to the pants party, generates virtually no charisma and leaves us wondering......this is the guy?

Then again, maybe Tom is supposed to be monotonous. Lila seems to be employing her future spouse in the manner of a $5,000 poker chip, like even if she's unhappy for the rest of her life with this guy she still will have won the war with Laura. Laura, on the other hand, is possibly just obsessed with Tom because she's obsessed with unrequited love which as Lila points out in a much better scripted argument - beginning in the present and then shifting, quickly, cattily, into trivial past events - unrequited love is just an excuse to prevent yourself from facing any kind of real consequences.

Which makes is so ironic that the film's sudden ending seems to excuse itself from facing any kind of real consequences. If this was Niederhoffer's ultimate intention she might be shrewder than I realize. But I'm not giving her the benefit of the doubt. Either way, the governing trio is less than riveting, desperate for more vampirish bite in the manner of Akerman who illuminates, ultra-deviously, the screen whenever she appears. She says: "I was headed for greatness. Now I'm headed for a breakdown."

Sigh......aren't we all?

No comments: