SWEET NOVEMBER (2001) screenwriter Kurt Voelker makes his writing-directing debut with this flat, ensemble satire about a group of unrelated and unloveable kooks who encounter one another -- and themselves -- over the course of a single afternoon at a dusty, isolated L.A. overlook.
The first to arrive is April (Dagney Kerr), a failed, would-be suicide who can't seem to off herself no matter what she tries, followed soon after by Ian (David Fenner), a 36-year-old mobile dog groomer who still lives with his parents. Riding shotgun in Ian's truck is Krysta (Izabella Miko), a recent Polish emigre. Ian is in love with Krysta -- he even wrote a song about her -- but she feels she's way out of his league, and coldly tells him so. Besides, she has a rendezvous with an obnoxious lawyer named Dennis (Billy Baldwin), who soon pulls up in his sports utility vehicle. After slipping into her sexy French maid uniform, Krysta hops into Dennis's car and, as foreplay, begins reading to him from the SUV's owner's manual in heavily accented English; Dennis, it seems, has a small penis and a fetish for oversized automobiles. Unbeknownst to him, Dennis and Krysta are being watched by Dennis's wife, Peggy (Ricki Lake), and her best friend, Claire (Cheri Oteri), who have followed Dennis to the park hoping to catch him in flagrante delicto. Meanwhile in a nearby van, two naked computer developers, Nathan (Trent Ford) and Babar (Maulik Pancholy), are trying to convince two coworkers, bitterly sarcastic Meredith (Anne Dudek) and shy Sheryl (Melanie Lynskey), to join them in their nudist lunch break.
Over the course of the next hour, stuff happens: A heartbroken Ian joins April in her suicide attempt; Peggy takes her revenge on Dennis before reconsidering her sexuality; and Babar and everyone else in the van confront their feelings about Nathan. There's very little cohesion among the separate storylines and aside from some nice performances, it all seems rather pointless. The kitschy soundtrack ("We've Only Just Begun," "This Guy's in Love with You") injects some fun into the proceedings while an overused, Lalo Schifrin-esque percussive leitmotif continually suggests something interesting is about to happen. Don't hold your breath. leave a comment --Ken Fox