Burning Annie

2007, Movie, NR, 95 mins


Van Flesher's rueful romantic comedy, based on Zack Ordynans' semiautobiographical screenplay and buttressed by a hipster soundtrack, pays backhanded homage to Woody Allen via the travails of college loser Max (Gary Lundy), who fears that years of wallowing in ANNIE HALL have permanently poisoned his love life.

Max, the kind of smarty-pants who unloads his insecurities on his confessional college radio show and then freaks out at the thought that someone might be listening, was "force-fed Woody Allen from a young age" by his Allen-loving parents. He fully absorbed its cynical pessimism and navel-gazing angst before even reaching the age of consent. He and roomies Sam (Jay Paulson) and Charles (Brian Klugman) have watched it together since freshman year, and it's finally occurred to Max that maybe a "20-year-old movie about a failed relationship" might not be the best model for real-life romance. So as not to appear entirely clueless, he admits that the real problem might be his unrequited crush on Beth (Kim Murphy Zandell), the best friend he nearly lost by trying to force their relationship to the next level... but it's funnier to lay his problems at ANNIE's feet, especially after the irascible Allen signed a covenant not to sue.

Come junior year, Beth is pining after a series of wrong-for-her guys, while Sam and longtime girlfriend Jen (Kathleen Rose Perkins) are breaking up and theater major Sam is learning that actresses are all crazy. Peripheral pals Scott (Jason Risner), Tommy (Todd Duffey) and Amanda (Rini Bell) are meanwhile stuck in a going-nowhere non-triangle — Amanda wants Scott, Scott doesn't want Amanda, Tommy wants Amanda, but she doesn't want him. Max swears off ANNIE (good!) and immediately meets his real-life Annie (bad!) in blonde beauty Julie (Sara Downing), a flighty, self-absorbed head case who switches majors like lipstick, hates school and rich kids, loves Anhedonia (played by sludgecore band A Place of Solace), sends mixed messages by the bushel barrel, and is, if such a thing is possible, even more annoyingly neurotic than Max.

Ordynans, who began writing BURNING ANNIE while he was still in college, has a you-are-there handle on the fatuous, petty concerns of sheltered 20-year-olds who spend too much time playing video-game hockey and talking about movies. What he lacks is perspective: For all the shallowly witty banter, Max and company are even less interesting than Annie and Alvy. "Our lives would make a terrible movie," opines gloomy Sam. "Well, if our lives were a movie you couldn't say that, my friend," Max retorts, "because you'd be giving critics a perfect line to pan it with." Say it again, Sam. Say it. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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