By Admin | November 28, 2005

The fact that “A Night at Sophie’s” treads well-worn territory is both its blessing and its curse. Whether it’s “My Best Friend’s Wedding” or “Brown Sugar,” the idea of unrequited love between friends as one heads for matrimony has been done in every conceivable form. This time, rather than occur gradually over weeks or involve wedding-day hijinks, events play out and emotions spill forth primarily over drinks at Sophie’s the local dive.

Nice-guy Harold (who the cast keeps annoyingly referring to as “Har” to reinforce the intra-character familiarity), played by Kevin P. Kern, is in a tizzy because his best friend Tony (Zack Ward) is marrying Kathryn Carner’s Nancy (also aggravatingly referred to in forced shorthand, this time “Nance”), who Harold’s secretly in love with. Harold tries to grapple with this the night before the nuptials over beers with buddies George (Glenn Taranto), who will avoid his own wife at all costs, and loveable chubster and wide-eyed dreamer Johnny (Dave Ruby), who’s waiting to meet a home-shopping exec about his latest invention. Not making things easier is that Harold finds out Tony may have cheated on Nancy with a stripper the prior evening––and may still be doing so as they speak––and Nancy is prowling around trying to find him.

The good thing about a story like this is it could genuinely go either way: the conventional romantic route, where Harold and Nancy realize their connection, so does Tony and the nice guy finishes first; or the more “Pretty in Pink” route, where neither guy is terrible, but the slightly more terrible one still gets the girl.

Schofield waits a bit too long to paint us a well-rounded picture of Tony, making it hard to swallow that he’s really just a misguided guy with a heart of gold, which is an element the film crucially relies on. And unfortunately, Ward (a veteran of “A Christmas Story” and TV show “Titus,” among other projects) is the most qualified actor, but gets the least screen time. Mostly, we see Kern awkwardly trying to figure out how to express himself to Nancy without screwing Tony over, and Nancy flitting about frantically doing her worst faux-New York accent (a problem that plagues every single character), and the actors’ relative inexperience is indeed damaging to a dialogue-heavy movie that relies on chemistry between such an intimate group of players.

That said, a small-budget short film isn’t in a position to hire Oscar-caliber talent, and the primary thing to focus on in “Sophie’s” in particular is the screenplay, which, development of Tony’s character aside, is full of unexpectedly poignant moments, thoughtful reflections and a few quality one-liners. The very last scene in the film in particular, though strangely focused on the peripheral character of George, is awfully hard not to smile over and elicit an “aww.”

If you’re a sucker for films like this in general, “Sophie’s” has enough charms going for it where it’s hardly a waste of an hour and 15 minutes. It certainly has its share of flaws too, mostly in the miscues of the performances, but it’s heart is in the right place, and heart is something it carries an abundance of.

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