leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh
Strong performances and sharp dialogue distinguish Jeff Lipsky's melancholy second feature, which charts the two-year course of a "perfect" relationship whose flaws are evident from the outset. New Yorkers Stuart Sawyer (Justin Kirk) and Nicole Reilly (Julianne Nicholson) meet on a blind date and hit it off immediately, despite their differences. Stuart, a publicist who whips up group-sales pitches for Broadway shows, is a glib charmer, self-reliant, debt-free and more than a little controlling. Nicole, who's struggling to repay her student loans and lives in a tiny apartment with a bathtub in the kitchen and a toilet in the hall, is fiercely dependent on her sprawling, troubled family, has trouble holding a job and sees the future in terms of vague ambitions and half-articulated hopes. Stuart takes an instant dislike to Nicole's best friend, Tess (Chelsea Altman), Nicole has immediate reservations about his high-strung brother, Jordan (Jamie Harrold). Their most powerful connection is their common infatuation with the idea of love — not in a giddy, free-spirited way, but with barely concealed desperation. Needy Nicole, whose childhood was marred by violence and alcoholism, is looking for refuge; Stuart, whose parents endured a miserable marriage, thinks love is rescuing people and wants to save her. They marry in haste — Stuart stage manages the wedding with typical flair — and start repenting almost as quickly. Stuart's career siphons off most of his emotional energy, Nicole's fledgling catering company — which Stuart underwrites — is a front for her desire to have children, and neither is truly prepared to (or perhaps capable of) changing enough to bridge the fact that they think, want and believe fundamentally different things. In Hollywood hands, Lipsky's subtly excruciating examination of hope doomed by incompatibility would have been diluted into something like THE BREAK UP (2006). But though Lipsky is a more skillful writer than he is a director, he knows when to step aside and his cast work with the material he's given them: Kirk and Nicholson make Stuart and Nicole into fully-fleshed characters who are equally convincing in the throes of new romance and the sad state of disillusionment that forces them to wonder what they ever saw in each other. And if they seem smaller than life, that's precisely the point — Lipsky puts utterly ordinary lives under a high-powered lens and finds a teeming microcosm of chaos no less devastating for being so unremarkable.