In the news media, Baltimore is frequently cast as a city driven by racial divisions and inequality. As though to provide an antidote to this bad press, Mike Finazzo’s Bored in the USA elects to make the Charm City the setting for an endearing love story. The two lovers in question are Kelly (Kelly Lloyd), a housewife who likes to watch old movies, and Chris (Chris Milner), an Englishman who works with Kelly’s husband at some unspecified company.
In terms of its plot, the film begins when Chris and Kelly bump into each other at a café. Out of boredom, they decide to spend the rest of the day doing things together around Baltimore, such as seeing an old movie (Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday) and visiting the city’s Graffiti Alley. Gradually, the two of them bond over their shared unhappiness with life. Kelly is tired of her marriage and stay-at-home lifestyle, and—while in his efforts to advance his career—Chris has never had the chance to, as he puts it, “actually stop and appreciate” things in life.
“…Chris and Kelly bump into each other…Out of boredom, they spend the rest of the day together…”
Neither of them openly admits it, but by the end of their day together, Kelly and Chris have clearly fallen in love with one another. What makes their situation tragic, however, is that they’re unable to act on their feelings. Leaving aside the fact that Kelly is married, Chris happens to be moving back to England the next day. And worse yet for Kelly, he also has a fiancée there.
In portraying the development of Kelly and Chris’ relationship, Bored in the USA occasionally becomes ham-fisted. In one scene, for instance, Kelly’s feelings for Chris are illustrated by a shot in which she imagines herself running over to Chris and kissing him. Given that we’ve previously had to glean their feelings from subtle details – glances, smiles, silences – this shot feels rather blatant, a moment that breaks with the film’s otherwise understated approach.
“When a film has the kind of acting and writing that Bored in the USA does, it somehow doesn’t matter that we’ve seen it all before.”
Beyond its heavy-handed aspects, however, the bigger problem with Bored in the USA is that it isn’t exactly original. Specifically, Bored in the USA is in many respects what Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset would’ve looked like if it had been set in Baltimore instead of Paris. Both films are about two unhappy people who meet and connect over an extremely brief period of time. Both films have ambiguous endings. Both films rely on long takes. And so on.
Still, Finazzo’s imitation of Before Sunset is so well-made that in the moment, it ends up being just as engrossing as Before Sunset itself. The script has the kind of dialogue that you’d imagine actual couples would say. And more importantly, Lloyd and Milner make an excellent on-screen pairing, to the point that by the end, you’ll be left with a burning desire to find out what happens to their characters next. When a film has the kind of acting and writing that Bored in the USA has, in short, it somehow doesn’t matter that we’ve seen it all before.
Bored in the USA (2019) Directed by Mike Finazzo. Written by Mike Finazzo. Starring Kelly Lloyd and Chris Milner.
Rating: 7 out of 10
"…“What makes their situation tragic, however, is that they’re unable to act on their feelings.”"