Tag Archives: D+

I DO…UNTIL I DON’T

Producer: Miranda Bailey, Lake Bell, Amanda Marshall and Jett Steiger
Director: Lake Bell
Writer: Lake Bell
Stars: Lake Bell, Ed Helms, Mary Steenburgen, Paul Reiser, Amber Heard, Wyatt Cenac, Dolly Wells, Chace Crawford, Chauntae Pink, Rae Gray and Hannah Friedman
Studio: The Film Arcade

D+

Aside from very rare exceptions, it is almost axiomatic that a comedy that closes with the birth of a baby to signify that, after all the plot complications, all is well again is a loser. That’s certainly the case with Lake Bell’s second feature, a wispy, feeble sitcom-quality ensemble piece about, if you can believe it, the robustness of the marriage bond—in an age when divorce has become the order of the day.

The catalyst of “I Do…Until I Don’t” is Vivian Prudeck (Dolly Wells), a snooty British documentarian whose last film was “Teenage Jungle”—you get the idea. Her new project is based on her view that the concept of permanent marriage is no longer valid, if it ever was, and she’s come to Florida to enlist several couples whose marriages she will follow as they unravel.

She first latches onto Alice (Bell), whose union with Noah (Ed Helms) is happy enough on the surface—they’re trying to have a kid, which introduces the usual stuff about having sex when the apps indicate the time is right—but whose financial situation is precarious. Alice, a shy, recessive type, gave up her dream of becoming an artist to help Noah run the store he inherited from his dad—a blinds shop, of all things. Understandably, it’s going under, and they may have to declare bankruptcy. For some reason she’s a big fan of Vivian and worms her way into the project, though she doesn’t tell her husband it’s a non-paying gig and so—in one of the script’s worst bits—she takes a job in a sex shop in the hope of making some cash she can pass off as their salary.

The involvement of Alice will lead her free-spirited sister Fanny (Amber Heard) into the mix, although she’s not really married to her equally hippy-ish boyfriend Zander (Wyatt Cenac). They’re devoted to one another, even if Zander shows a jealous streak when a drifter named Egon (Chace Crawford) shows too much interest in Fanny.

Then there’s the third couple, realtor Cybil (Mary Steenburgen) and her semi-retired husband Harvey (Paul Reiser). His obsession with a newly-bought motorcycle irks her to no end, and their conversations consist of perpetually sniping at one another. Their marriage is further tested when daughter Milly (Hannah Friedman) shows up pregnant by a boyfriend whom they presume will be unsuitable. They’re drawn into the orbit of the other couples when Harvey decides to make use of an introductory couple at the aforementioned sex shop, where Alice is assigned to give him a massage.

The cast is an able one—vets Steenburgen and Reiser are particularly engaging, though their younger colleagues are mostly ingratiating (apart from Wells, whose stridency is insufferable). But Bell’s script, crammed with idiotic situations and lame dialogue (including long interview segments with the couples that are D.O.A.), offers them all virtually nothing to work with. Nor does her direction help, being so lackadaisical as to seem nonexistent. On the technical side, the movie looks a bit impoverished, with cinematography (by Wyatt Garfield) that’s utterly bland and a score (by Dexter Story) that’s irritatingly perky.

It all ends in a scene set at Vivian’s big outdoor project party where—surprise, surprise!—the strength of marriage is reaffirmed, followed by what makes it all worthwhile, that supposedly madcap moment when Milly’s water breaks. The desperation couldn’t be more apparent.

The original title of “I Do…Until I Don’t” was “What’s The Point?” You can understand the reason for the change, but somehow Bell’s initial choice seems the more appropriate one. Maybe she can recover the modest mojo of her first movie, “In a World…,” next time; in this case, what the ellipsis appears to indicate are the humor and heart Bell’s omitted this time around.

VINCENT N ROXXY

Producer: Keith Kjarval
Director: Gary Michael Schultz
Writer: Gary Michael Schultz
Stars: Emile Hirsch, Zoe Kravitz, Emory Cohen, Zoey Deutch, Beau Knapp, Jason Mitchell, Scott Mescudi, Jeff Gum and Joseph Bicicchi
Studio: Vertical Entertainment

D+

One presumes that what Gary Michael Schultz was aiming for in his sophomore feature was a modern noir in a Tarantino mold, but with “Vincent N Roxxy” he instead manages just an oddly bland would-be romance followed by a long spasm of ultra-violence. You’re likely to leave the movie feeling that this is one journey you shouldn’t have signed onto.

As the picture begins, Vincent (Emile Hirsch) is sitting in his car, watching a house. When he sees an angry black man, who will later be identified as Suga (Scott Mescudi), accosting a young woman named Roxxy (Zoe Kravitz) with a gun, he intervenes and eventually drives her to safety. Speeding out of the city he invites her to hide at his remote family farm, where he is going to reunite with his brother JC (Emory Cohen). She initially declines the offer, but eventually will show up there seeking refuge from Suga, a bad-ass who’s out to retrieve a bundle of cash Roxxy’s murdered brother had somehow gotten hold of.

Meanwhile Vincent and JC, along with the latter’s girlfriend Kate (Zoey Deutch), get into some trouble with her previous boyfriend Daryl (Beau Knapp) and his thuggish pals at the dingy roadside place where Kate works as a bartender, and helps Roxxy land a similar job. The brothers are at odds over how they failed one another during their late mother’s final illness—Vincent is angry that he had to serve as her caretaker while JC was gone, while JC accuses Vincent leaving him to handle the burial alone after she died—but reconcile somewhat, despite JC’s hotheadedness and risky plans for making money. Unsurprisingly, Vincent and Roxxy get intimate as well, sharing very close moments that are shot by cinematographer Alex Disenhot like extremely soft-core footage.

Of course, danger enters in the form of Suga and his crew, and though Vincent comes on the scene as the prospective savior of Roxxy, JC and Kate, what results instead is an explosive orgy of mayhem involving bondage, knifings, execution-style shootings, hanging, and rape. That will bring revelations, the most important concerning the whereabouts of Suga’s money, and a culminating act of bloody revenge that will raise the body count exponentially. Where matters are headed from there is a matter of pure conjecture.

Schultz, apparently believing that a long, brooding introduction followed by a paroxysm of gore will make for a compelling whole, stages the first hour of “Vincent N Roxxy” like a dirge; even the opening rescue scene is flat, and his attempts to liven things up with Tarantino-esque bits of business such as JC’s monologue to some card-playing buddies fall flat because, quite honestly, the writing is drab. Of course it would help if there were any chemistry between Hirsch and Kravitz, but there isn’t. He seems to be sleepwalking through his role, except for that outburst with JC about their mother and another pitting him against Daryl, while she is almost equally lethargic until the final act. Cohen, who was so charismatic in “Brooklyn,” merely rants here, and Deutch is largely wasted in a thankless part. (Mescudi, on the other hand, is grimly menacing.)

The picture has a poverty-row look, with Disenhot’s widescreen lensing unimpressive and Bruce Cannon’s editing desultory. The pulsating synthesizer score by Ahmir Thompson and Ray Angry is a particular irritant.

In the final analysis Vincent and Roxxy are two people you’ll wish you hadn’t met.