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By Merle Bertrand | January 10, 2000

“All the Wrong Places” opens with two quick strikes against it: 1) It’s a romantic comedy, the most worn out genre of the 90s, and 2) the lead character is an aspiring filmmaker. That alone is cause enough to put a bullet in its sprocket holes. That this quirky comic fable from Martin Edwards fights off that lethal third strike is testament to its genuine warmth and eccentric nature. Marissa (Ali Hillis) has fashioned a successful career out of struggling to escape her famous artist mother’s shadows. Commendably trying to forge her own name rather than riding on her mom’s laurels, the cute former co-ed divides her time between flavor-of-the-month career choices and a series of impromptu sessions on her psychiatrist’s couch. Her current passion is filmmaking, launched right about the time she finally meets her good-looking but shy neighbor Paul (Jeremy Klavens). Himself another self-seeking youth with a silver foot in the door, Paul dabbles at writing, knowing that his father has promised to publish his first book. Finally inspired when he meets Marissa, he sets out to write that first book about her as she fumbles about trying to make her first film; a film that’s initially to be a treatise on lesbianism then later, homelessness, about neither of which our perky but earnest heroine knows much. Soul mates, then, if for no other reason than that they’re both still trying to be true to themselves, the two inevitably fall in love as they embark on their respective searches. Aside from the “Frasier”-esque quotes kicking off each chapter in this oddly flowing string of vignettes, as well as a handful of disorienting cutaway sequences a la “The Family Guy,” “All the Wrong Places” is essentially a fairly standard romantic comedy. With the eminently enjoyable chemistry between Hillis and Klavens saving it from its meandering middle combined with its colorful plethora of well drawn supporting characters, it should probably come as no surprise, then, that “All the Wrong Places” much more closely resembles a TV show than it does a feature film. Either way, it fights off its two-strike handicap and manages a solid, if not spectacular, line shot double off the wall.

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