by Alan Yudman
I DO… UNTIL I DON’T. That is not only the title of Lake Bell’s new film, but how one comes to feel about the movie. You like it, then eventually you don’t. This was a major disappointment for me. I was so looking forward to this after 2013’s IN A WORLD. That film was everything this is not. Original, unique, smart and funny.
There are moments in this film that made me chuckle. There were others that made me giggle or laugh lightly. But mostly it misses every mark. The premise is well, I’m not sure what the premise is. The film goes in two different directions. First we are introduced to two couples, Noah and Alice (Ed Helms and Bell) and Harvey and Cybil (Paul Reiser and Mary Steenburgen). We are lead to believe we’ll be following these two couples. One younger, facing financial hard times and trying to get pregnant. The other older, seeming on the edge of divorce. Then Bell throws Vivian (Dolly Wells) into the mix. She is a documentary filmmaker whose current project starts with the premise that marriage should be for seven years wth an option to renew. The two couples become part of Vivian’s documentary and are joined by a third couple, Alice’s sister Fanny and her partner Zander (Amber Heard and Wyatt Cenac). They are free, have an open marriage and a child and are very modern hippie-like.
So which is the narrative that drives the story? Both. And that’s a problem. When you try to tell two stories at the same time, neither gets served. There are a lot of devices that Bell uses in a attempt to draw the stories together, but it’s just not working at all. None of the emotion or tension feels earned in any way. Things just happen for little or no reason. As a result you don’t really care about any of the characters or the situations.
I could go on and on about why this was so mediocre, bordering on bad. But there were a couple of glimmers of light. It was great to see Paul Reiser working. Where has he been? Probably in TV shows or movies I haven’t seen, but he was pretty good here. Ed Helms did the best he could with the material and is also pretty good at the indie romcom leading man thing.
Ok, that’s it. That’s all there is to like. The third act is a mess. It rushes to the finish. Well, let’s just hope that this was a sophomore slump for Bell. I will say she has directing chops. That’s the one thing she does well in this film, but she cannot save her own screenplay. I Do? No, I just can’t.