First time writer-director Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s film “Easier With Practice” could pose a problem for him when he moves onto his next project. Armed with an awesome, erotic and tension filled script, he’s assembled a terrific group of young actors to bring his vision to life. His directorial style is laid back but confident and some of the moves he makes with the camera are so smooth, you don’t even see them, and that’s a good thing. So maybe you’re wondering what the problem is going to be? Well, the problem is “Easier With Practice” is such an assured, solid and just plain good film, it’s going to be a tough act to follow.
Based on a “true story,” “Easier With Practice” is the story of young Davy (Geraghty), a short story writer who’s traversing the American Southwest with his ne’er do well brother Sean (O’Neill). They go from crappy town to crappy town reading at independent bookstores and sometimes at colleges. Davy is quiet and bookish and seems to live within himself. We soon see these public readings of his seemingly mediocre works are a way to try and break out of his awkward shell and connect. Sean is along to try and bag girls even though he has a gorgeous girlfriend named Sarah (Brox) back at home. The road trip is staggering along until one night at a fleabag hotel, Davy answers a random phone call.
On the other end of the line is sultry and h***y Nicole who is so hot to trot. Immediately Davy is coaxed into an impromptu phone sex session even though he doth protest too much. As Davy tries to get out of the conversation, Nicole tells him the obvious; “if you don’t want this, all you have to do is hang up.” Davy wants it as does Nicole and soon a strange relationship is formed between the two. While they seem to connect in their brief “foreplay” conversations, Nicole is always the one who does the calling and it’s always from a private number thus leaving Davy at the mercy of his cell phone to get himself off.
There’s just something creepy about having daily phone sex with a person you’ve never met in real life. Is the person you’re talking to who they claim to be? Are they a stalker, murderer or blackmailer? They could be prettier than you imagined or maybe a 400-pound triple amputee with B.O. that could choke a horse. Nicole seems sweet enough and it’s Davy who starts kind of freaking out about the situation but what’s cool about “Easier With Practice” is, Davy was a bookish shut-in before Nicole called and their relationship only serves to bring his issues to a head. The film slowly morphs from a very sad look at the human condition to a very touching one about people and how much they need one another. Plus there’s the airtight script device of “will Davy and Nicole meet and if so, what will happen next?” that keeps things humming along at a rather exciting pace.
The film could be a weird novelty routine or some kind of sleazy shock piece if not for the aforementioned steady hand of Alvarez and a solid cast. Geraghty as Davy makes you physically uncomfortable as he moves between pathetic, nebbish dork and sympathetic, sweetly love struck man. O’Neill as Sean is the perfect brotherly lout and his ability to f**k with Davy by slowly dialing up the tension to make him stew uncomfortably is something anyone with a bastard sibling will recognize. Marguerite Moreua shows up as Samantha, a former love interest of Davy’s and once again I’m forced to wonder why she isn’t a bigger star. She’s simply stunning to look at and every role I’ve ever seen her in (“Easy,” “Wet Hot American Summer “ “Beverly Hills Chihuahua”…just kidding!) she’s just perfect. There’s a sweetness to her that reminds one of Audrey Tatou or Audrey Hepburn but with a more raw sexuality. In any case, she’s outstanding here as Samantha, a kind of wrench in the strange love story of Davy and Nicole.
My earlier thoughts that Alvarez would soon have his work cut out for him wasn’t meant to over praise or challenge him to do better. It’s just that by the time the credits rolled on what started off seeming to be just another indie road picture, there was a sweet sadness that had snuck itself into the film without me even seeing it coming. The film cuts to the core with graphic, sexual language and goes deeper when the fragility of loneliness is exposed. The deft touch on display by everyone involved is awesome and refreshing as is the acting, writing and directing.
Originally reviewed at the 2009 CineVegas Film Festival; Now playing in limited theatrical release