STUDIO: Lions Gate
MSRP: $27.98
RUNNING TIME: 128 min.
• Commentary with Don Roos, Clark Mathis, and Lisa Kudrow
• “Making of” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes w/commentary option
• Outtakes w/commentary option
• Montage w/commentary option

When she was a teenager, Mamie (Lisa Kudrow) boinked her stepbrother Charley (Steve Coogan) and got pregnant. Instead of having an abortion she secretly gave the baby up for adoption. 20 years later, she’s an abortion counselor in a fuck-buddy relationship with Javier (Bobby Cannavale), a Mexican masseur with a sideline in, yes, “happy endings”. One day, she’s approached by Nick (Jesse Bradford), an obnoxious young man who claims to know (for a price) the name and whereabouts of her grown son…

"It’s over, Joey."

Charley, we learn, turned out gay. He and his boyfriend Gil (David Sutcliffe) hang out with Gil’s best friend Pam (Laura Dern) and her girlfriend Diane (Sarah Clarke), who have had a son via sperm-donor. Charley becomes consumed with the suspicion that the boy is in fact Gil’s biological child, and plots to force the truth into the open…

"I confess… I’m not really Alan Partridge at all."

Meanwhile, amoral gold-digger Jude (Maggie Gyllenhaal) sets her sights on Charley’s sexually confused assistant Otis (Jason Ritter), and shortly works her way up to Otis’ wealthy, widowed father Frank (Tom Arnold)…

That’s right, it’s another one of those everyone-knows-everyone-in-L.A. stories. Complete with a fender-bender meet-cute.

"Ever see The Dark Backward?"

The Flick

Five years after Bounce went thud, writer/director Don Roos returns to the more familiar territory of his breakthrough film, 1998’s The Opposite of Sex. In fact, if you’ve seen that picture you may already have recognized some recurring themes and personality types here: dead parents, unconventional pregnancies, angry seductresses, envious blackmailers, good-hearted widowers, rudderless gay boys, screwed-up Kudrows. Despite terrific performances from the entire cast, it doesn’t go over as well this time around.

Another Starbucks, another firebombing.

Mainly, it’s a matter of perspective. Where Christina Ricci’s character in Sex outlined her dubious philosophy via a first-person narration that encouraged us to look beyond her words, here we get omniscient title cards which fill in narrative details but also present a concretized world-view that distances the viewer from the action and limits interpretation.

Coming soon: Cliffs Notes– The Motion Picture.

The multiple plotlines create a problem too. The Gyllenhaal/Arnold narrative scarcely impacts the Kudrow and Coogan stories at all, and might have worked better as a separate film. It’s easy to forget how the various characters are related to each other, or whether they even know each other. When, at the end, some of their paths do cross, it feels contrived. There’s at least one coupling that comes out of absolutely nowhere.

The lasting impression is of a world of people attempting to satisfy their animal drives and impulses while holding humanity itself at arm’s length. What’s odd is that, whether they’re conscious of it or not, the filmmakers seem to think this is a good thing.

6 out of 10

When you find that special someone who can levitate soft drinks with her yin-yang, ask no questions.

The Look

2.35:1 scope ratio, presented in a letterboxed anamorphic transfer. The compositions are extremely wide: a TV with heavy overscan will easily crop out characters and/or text, so calibrate if you can. As you can see from these screen-caps, the film is beautifully shot.

9 out of 10

The Noise

5.1 and 2.0, but not exactly a workout for your speakers either way. Some of the montage sequences have characters talking in the background and it’s sometimes hard to tell how audible they’re supposed to be. Ms. Gyllenhaal’s excellent singing voice provides a good bench-test for treble stability.

8 out of 10

Ms. Dern is gonna keep on doing that thing with her mouth until you start recycling.

The Goodies

Roos dominates the commentary tracks, with occasional input from cinematographer Mathis and star Kudrow. A lot of time is spent explaining the various characters’ motives and histories—the sort of thing that ought to have been clearer in the movie itself. Interestingly, Roos considers Nick and Charley sympathetic despite their emotional immaturity and manipulative behavior. Both characters bugged the shit out of me.

"I am the Ghost of ’90s Past."

The deleted scenes don’t add much to the story. What’s notable is that many of them show the characters being nice to each other. No time for that in a movie like this!

“Montage” is an interesting collection of held takes of the actors ‘behaving’ in character. These were intended to serve as background for the various title cards.

There are a handful of trailers for other Lions Gate films, but not this one.

7 out of 10

"Is it still there?"

The Artwork

The eye-catching theatrical poster. One of them, anyway—there’s a ‘male’ variant out there too. It’s a little misleading since the movie doesn’t focus all that much on massage, but it’s better than a forest of ensemble heads.

8 out of 10

Overall: 7 out of 10