Jersey Guy

2003, Movie, R, 90 mins


Written by Abel Ferrara-collaborator Christ Zois (NEW ROSE HOTEL, BLACKOUT) and directed by his son, Elia, this poky, character-driven comedy gets up-close and a little too personal with Jack Sheldon (Steve Parlavecchio), an unlikeable young nursing home administrator from New Jersey who faces that proverbial fork in the road when he meets a slinky model in New York City. Having recently graduated from community college and now fully ensconced in the daily routine of the Happy Hills nursing home, Jack realizes that he's dangerously close to living his parents' life. He still lives with his mom and dad (Vickie Thaw, Arthur Nascarella); his best friend is a middle-aged janitor (Ralph Caputo); and his sweetheart, Susan (Stacy Mistysyn), a perfectly nice girl whom he's been dating on-and-off for the past seven years, keeps mentioning the "M" word. Jack dreads the responsibility that comes with marriage, and he's beginning to feel that his life has become a trap. That vague suspicion becomes glaring obvious when, one night at a trendy Manhattan club, he meets Sam (Jill Wolfe), a dark-haired, down-to-earth fashion model who actually seems to like him. She gives him her number, and Jack is soon lying to Susan back in Jersey order to date Sam in Manhattan. They meet for Japanese food — in a scene that's become a fish-out-of-water comedy cliché, Jack's baffled by the chopsticks and repulsed by the sushi — Jack drops in on a photo shoot and together they make the scene in the Hamptons with Sam's shallow fashionista friends. Jack's uncertainty about his future is explicated through a series of misty heart-to-hearts with his father, who reminisces about his own life in lieu of advice but does flatly tell his son that just because he dated Susan all these years doesn't mean he owes her anything. The movie plays on the same tired perception of New York City as a glittering but illusory beacon of glamour and sophistication that drives the characters of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, WORKING GIRL and 54. The pacing is slack, and too many of the supporting performances feel under-rehearsed. But the real trouble is Jack: He's narcissistic and tough to like (Pontevecchio's fine, but a younger actor might not have brought an impression of arrested development to the character), and his crude sense of humor borders on the disgusting. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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