“Precious” is the word that best describes Lisa Krueger’s
sophomore feature, a terminally cute bit of feminist whimsy
about a driven young New York City woman (Heather Graham) who
trails her wayward husband (Luke Wilson) to El Paso, where
he’s fled to search for “space.” There she develops an unusual
friendship with her hubby’s new inamorata, a beautiful Mexican-
American waitress (Patricia Velasquez), and the girl’s amiably
mystical grandfather (Alfonso Arau), and eventually learns the
self-confidence she needs when her spouse resists her attempts
to reconnect.

The film wants to be a kind of comic reverie on modern notions
of interpersonal commitment, questioning how far today’s
society will allow one to go in being true to the pledges of
permanency made in marriage. That’s actually an admirable
artistic aim, but “Committed” fails to realize its ambitions.
The main difficulty is that as written the lead couple is so
dippy and thick-witted that they soon cease to have any
resemblance to reality; their quirkiness is so calculated
that it quickly degenerates into heavy-handed affectation, and
they become oddball caricatures to whom an audience can’t
truly relate in any honest way. When the heroine winds up in
a mental institute because of her obsession with reuniting
with her reluctant husband, therefore, it seems a crude
tragicomic contrivance rather than the sharply ironic
observation it’s clearly intended to be.

If the central duo is more off-putting than intriguing, however,
the supporting characters provide some consolation. Casey
Affleck gives a warm, ingratiatingly laid-back performance as
Graham’s brother, who follows her to the southwest and
eventually links up with Velasquez. The latter is an attractive
new screen presence, both alluring and funny. And Arau manages
to retain his considerable dignity in a role that could easily
have become sheer shtick.

As for Krueger, her debut feature “Manny and Lo” showed that
she’s got a real ear for dialogue and a director’s eye. Very
few people escape the sophomore jinx, however, and she hasn’t
managed to do so. One can only hope that her next effort will
be a return to earlier form.